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Cornell University Library 

DC 137.5.B54L28 1913 

Rose Bertin, the creator of fashion at t 

3 1924 024 290 623 



Cornell University 

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The present work, which I have translated — and in 
many places adapted — from the French, is not a mere 
biographical account of Rose Bertin, the famous 
milliner of Marie- Antoinette. The author has made a 
minute study of the fashions of the day, and gives us 
a description of the eccentricities of the last days of the 
French monarchy as far as dress was concerned. He 
makes us acquainted with the peculiar tastes, and one 
may add the aberrations, of fashionable and aristocratic 
Versailles under Louis XV. and Louis XVL But 
the author of the present work does more ; he allows 
us here and there a peep into a private boudoir of a 
great lady of the period, and, above all, into the life 
and character of that unfortunate Queen, who, though 
wayward and petulant, proud and thoughtless, could 
be kind and generous and true to her friends. 

Rose Bertin knew it. The Queen had admitted 
her to familiarity, and, although she often availed 
herself of this august friendship in her own interests 
and in those of her relations, she was grateful for it 
until her death. And when adversity had befallen the 
daughter of the Csesars, the little milliner gave a 


noble and unselfish proof of her attachment and 

Rose Bertin had attained to European fame. The 
entire fashionable world were contending for caps of 
her making ; and in relating her history the author 
shows us what an importance was attached to fashion, 
and what esteem its creators enjoyed at the Court of 
Versailles. This book, therefore, is to some extent, 
not only the history of Rose Bertin, but of an entire 




Preface v 


I. The Beginning of a Famous Milliner — Her 

Influence at Court 11 

II. Rose Bertin and the Chevalier d'Eon 34 

III. Mme. Du Barry — The Pilgrimage to Mon- 

flieres — The Great Fashion — A Versailles 
Scandal - 87 

IV. The End of Eccentricities — Rose Bertin^ Rue 

de Richelieu — Her Pretended Bankruptcy 133 

V. The Last Years of the Monarchy — Decline 

of Business — Rose Bertin's House Property 180 

VI. Rose Bertin during the Revolution — Journeys 

TO Germany and England - 211 

VII. The Massacre in the Rue de la Loi — Last 

Years of Rose Bertin 274 

VIII. The Heirs of Rose Bertin — Sainte-Beuve's 

Opinion on the Memoirs 302 

Index 319 



Rose Bertin 
Princesse de Conti 




Marie- Antoinette 


Fashion in 1775 


Duchesse de Chartres 


Fashion in 1776 : Bonnet called " Le Lever de la Reine" 44 

Mile. Rose in Morning Toilette 


Chapeau a la Grenade, 1779 


Princesse de Lamballe 


Fashion in 1778 


Mme. Du Barry 


Miss Coneingue out of Opera 


Polonnoise h, la PoulettC;, 1779 


A Fashionable Dressmaker delivering her Work 


Dress k la Suzanne - 




Marie Adelaide de France 


Madame Royale 


Fashion in 1788 





Mme. Elisabeth 210 

Princesse de Lamballe 2l6 

Duchesse d'Angouleme 230 

Princesse de Lamballe 242 

Mme. Tallien 256 

Empress Maria-Theresa 286 







The reign of Marie- Antoinette was one of futility and 
chiffon ; and if the Queen did not create the office of a 
Minister of Fashion, the Court of Versailles was never- 
theless always crowded with hairdressers, dressmakers, 
and milliners, who exercised more influence than the 
King's Councillors. Rose Bertin was one of their 
number. Her real name was Marie- Jeanne Bertin, 
and thus she figures in all biographical dictionaries. 
She was born at Amiens in 1744, but recent researches, 
made in the archives of Abbeville, have fixed July 2, 
1747, as the exact date of her birth. This is con- 
firmed by an extract from her birth certificate inserted 
in the register of the parish of St. Gilles, and signed 
by the curate, Falconnier. Her parents were people 
of very small means, and the earnings of the father 



did not suffice to educate the two children, Marie- 
Jeanne and her brother, Jean-Laurent, two years 
younger than herself. To augment the budget of the 
family, the mother was obliged to exercise the pro- 
fession of sick-nurse. Marie- Jeanne had thus received 
a very modest education, but sufficient to develop her 
sense of ambition. Nature had been kind to her ; she 
was beautiful, and she knew it — women are never 
unconscious of such things, and are always ready to 
profit by it — but Marie- Jeanne was also endowed with 
a great deal of intelligence, which enabled her to make 
her way in life. 

She had faith in her star. One day a gipsy foretold 
her future. Rose was only a child when the gipsy 
was arrested and imprisoned. The cronies of the 
neighbourhood, talkative and superstitious, told won- 
derful things of the prisoner who had read the future 
in the palms of their hands. The child became 
curious, and longed to know what lay in store for her. 
But she had no money to pay the old woman for her 
prophecies, and neither father nor mother Bertin would 
ever consent to spend a trifle on such childish whims. 
Rose therefore starved herself, and carried her portion 
of food to the prisoner. Prisons in those days were 
not what they are now, and the girl easily obtained 
access to the imprisoned gipsy, who, in exchange for 
a succulent dish, consented to lift the mysterious veil 
of the future. Taking the white hand of the child 
between her own long, dirty fingers, she said senten- 
tiously : " You will rise to great fortune, and will 


one day wear a Court dress." Rose left the prison, 
her face beaming with joy. 

But Nicholas Bertin,her father, who was seventy-two 
years old, died on January 24, 1754, leaving the burden 
of the family and the upbringing of the children to 
his widow. Rose loved her mother, and she was 
not a girl to allow the latter to work too much when 
she was in a position to come to her assistance. She 
was sixteen now, and one day she made up her mind 
to leave home, and mounted the coach which took her 
to Paris. Little did her people, who were sadly 
watching her departure, think that Rose was going 
to meet her fortune. 

Rose Bertin was not awkward ; they soon perceived 
it in the millinery shop kept by Mile. Pagelle, under 
the name of the Trait Galant, where Rose had found 
a situation. And yet the Trait Galant — which 
furnished not only the Court of France, but also that 
of Spain — enjoyed, as far as morals were concerned, a 
most respectable reputation, a fact of somewhat rare 
occurrence among the ladies of the millinery profes- 
sion. It was about that time, too, that Jeanne B^cu, 
who afterwards became the famous Mme. Du Barry, 
was apprenticed in the millinery shop of Labille, which 
was situated in the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, 
near the Place des Victoires. Jeanne B^cu, who was 
known at that time by the name of Mile. Lanson, 
justified the reputation of the ladies of her profession, 
and had many lovers. Mile. Oliva, who was after- 
wards to play her part in the famous aifair of the 


necklace, was also a milliner, and was leading a life 
similar to that of Jeanne Becu. Rose Bertin had been 
in the employ o£ Mile. Pagelle for a short time, when 
an event occurred which was to decide her future. 

Among the customers of the Trait Galant was 
Mme. de la Saune, formerly Mile. Caron, and mistress 
of the Comte de Charolais, to whom she had borne 
two daughters. The Count having died, the Princesse 
de Conti obtained letters of legitimization for the two 
girls, who took the name of Miles, de Bourbon. The 
elder soon married the Comte de Puget, whilst the 
younger became the wife of M. de Lowendal. The 
wedding dresses of the young ladies had been ordered 
at the Trait Galant^ and the Princesse de Conti had 
asked to see the dresses herself 

It was about eight o'clock in the evening when 
Mile. Pagelle despatched Rose to the Hotel de Conti 
with the dresses o£ the Demoiselles de Bourbon. It 
was bitter cold, and when the milliner arrived at the 
palace, and asked to see the Princess, she was shown 
into a room where a huge fire was blazing. In a 
corner near the fireplace an old woman — whom Rose 
took for a chamber maid — was seated. She got up as 
soon as the girl entered, exclaiming, *'Ah, you have 
brought the dresses of the Demoiselles de Bourbon ! 
let me see." Rose satisfied her curiosity, and the two 
soon began to chat amicably, when they were in- 
terrupted by a Lady-in- Waiting. " What," exclaimed 
the latter, '' is your Highness here? " " Yes," replied 
the Princess, " and I have been enjoying myself 

princessp: de conti 

To face page 1 4 


immensely." Rose Bertin was quite embarrassed; she 
threw herself at the feet of Her Highness and begged 
for forgiveness. But the Princess told her that she 
had committed no breach of etiquette in having been 
natural, especially as she was ignorant of the identity 
of her interlocutress. She assured the milliner of her 
good -will and protection for the future. 

This event is related in the "M^moires de Mile. 
Bertin" and published in 1824. These m^7noires are 
now proved to have been written by J. Penchet with 
the purpose of whitewashing the memory of Marie- 
Antoinette and exculpating her from certain accusa- 
tions. It is, however, impossible that Penchet should 
have related certain anecdotes without having heard 
them from the people whom they concerned, and with 
whom he found himself in constant contact. 

The Princesse de Conti had thus taken a decided 
fancy to Rose, and the latter soon received proofs of 
Her Highness's kindness. 

The Due de Chartres was going to marry Louise- 
Marie-Adelaide de Bourbon, daughter of the Due 
de Penthievre, and the richest heiress in the kingdom, 
and, thanks to the Princesse de Conti, Rose had received 
the order to make the trousseau for the bride. Great 
was the pride of Rose Bertin when she announced the 
good news to her employer. Mile. Pagelle, who had 
long ago ceased to consider Rose as a simple employee, 
opened her arms, and, embracing the little milliner, 
exclaimed: "Little one, from this moment you may 
consider yourself as my partner." And henceforth the 


business of the Trait Galant had two heads, and the 
most turbulent partner, whose mind was constantly ir 
search for new designs and models, was the little girl 
from Picardy, daring and ambitious, and who knew that 
she was ffoino; to make her fortune and a name famous 
in Europe. 

The Duchesse de Chartres also became a protectress 
of Rose, and she soon found a third in Mme. de 
Lamballe. But Rose was beautiful, elegant, and 
graceful. She had above all an air of distinction, and 
attracted a great deal of attention. One day the Due 
de Chartres noticed her in the apartments of his wife. 
She took his fancy. He spoke to her, and unhesi- 
tatingly made love to her. Would she become his 
mistress ? He offered her diamonds, horses, a 
carriage, a fine furnished hotel, if she would onl^ 
consent to listen to his impassioned declarations. 
But, to his utmost surprise, the little milliner would 
not listen to the proposals of the noble Duke. The 
latter was nonplussed, and the more obstinate Rose 
was, the more desperate the lover grew. He at last 
decided to carr}^ the girl off to a little house in 
Neuilly, where he hoped to make her yield to his 
wishes. Rose was informed of the plan by a valet oi 
the Duke, and she lived in constant fear of being kid- 
napped and carried off to the secluded house at 
Neuilly. She scarcely ventured to leave her house at 
night. She knew too well the life led by the noble- 
men of her time, who modelled their conduct upon 
that of the King himself, and the abduction of a little 
milliner in those days would pass absolutely un- 


noticed. Every morning she went for her orders to 
the Duchesse de Chartres, and nothing had as yet 
happened, when one day she was called to the 
Comtesse d'Usson for an important order. Rose was 
conversing with the Comtesse, when the Duke was 
announced, and Mme. d'Usson rushed to meet His 
Highness. Rose was evidently being forgotten, and, 
noticing an easy-chair, she calmly sat down. The 
Comtesse looked surprised, and motioned to the girl 
to get up. The milliner took no notice of her 
hostess, who at last exclaimed : 

'* Mile. Rose, you evidently seem to forget that 
you are in the presence of His Highness.'' 

'' Not at all, madame," replied Rose ; " I am not 
forgetting it at all." 

*' Then, why are you behaving as you do ?" 

" Ah !" answered the little milliner, " Mme. la 
Comtesse is evidently not aware of the fact that if I 
only wished it I could become Duchesse de Chartres 

The Duke changed colour, but said nothing, whilst 
the Comtesse looked surprised, with the air of some- 
one who is waiting for the solution of a riddle. 

" Yes, madame,'' continued Rose, " I have been 
offered everything that can tempt a poor girl, and 
because I have refused I am now in dano^er of beine: 
kidnapped. If, therefore, one day your bonnets and 
dresses are not ready, and you are told that little Rose 
has disappeared, you will have to address yourself to 
His Highness, who will know of her whereabouts." 



" What do you say to this, monseigneur ?" asked 
the Comtesse d'Usson. 

" What can I say ?" replied the latter. '* All means 
are fair when it is a question of subduing a rebel, and 
I can surely not be blamed for having tried to obtain 
the favour of such an amiable and beautiful young 

'' Monseigneur is perfectly right to prefer a little 
milliner to his august wife the Princess, who possesses 
the highest qualities ; but you will admit, madame, 
that I too may be allowed to treat familiarly one who is 
so anxious to make me his companion. If His High- 
ness will only not forget his rank, I will certainly 
remember the extreme distance which separates us." 
Thus spoke Rose, and making a low bow to the 
Duke, who was murmuring, " You are a little 
viper," she left the room, leaving His Highness 
much perplexed. Henceforth, however, he ceased 
worrying the milliner with his assiduities. 

Rose Bertin did not remain very long in partner- 
ship with Mile. Pagelle. She soon established her 
own business, thanks to the help she had received 
from the Duchesse de Chartres. The latter was in 
the habit of thus helping poor girls and setting them 
up in business. Rose Bertin often met the protegees of 
the Duchess in the antechamber of the ducal palace. 
One of these protegees Avas Marie the flower-girl, 
whom the Duchess had once met in the street and 
taken a fancy to. 

Not only had the Duchess provided the funds for 


Eose*s business, but she also recommended hei to a 
fashionable clientele. At that moment the talk of 
Court and town was the approaching marriage of the 
Dauphin with the daughter of Empress Maria- 
Theresa. In March, 1770, the Duchesse de Chartres 
went to see Mme. de Noailles, who had been ap- 
pointed Lady-in-Waiting to the Dauphine, and Mme. 
de Misery, chosen to be First Chambermaid. She spoke 
highly of her prot(^gee, praising not only her talents, 
but also her manners, and, supported by the Princesses 
de Conti and Lamballe, she procured for Rose the 
advantage of furnishing the dresses and finery which 
were to be offered to Marie- Antoinette at Strasburg 
on her arrival on French soil. 

Milliners in the eighteenth century were not what 
they are nowadays ; they not only trimmed hats, but 
also arranged and ornamented dresses. There were 
a good many milliners in Paris in those days, and 
some of them exercised their trade on the Quai de 
Gevres, where Rose Bertin is supposed to have kept 
a shop for some time. In any case, she remained 
there only a short time, and soon we find her estab- 
lished in the Rue de St. Honoro, which was the 
centre of commerce during the reign of Louis XVI. 
The signboard of her business contained the inscrip- 
tion " Au Grand Mogol." The houses in those days 
were not numbered, and the signboards were there- 
fore very important, especially as far as the mer- 
chants were concerned. Each had his signboard 
with an inscription so as to avoid confusion. Thus 


one could read in the Rue de St. Honore, '' Au 
Trait Galant," " Au Grand Mogol," '' Au Bouquet 
Galant," " A la Corbeille Galante," and many others. 

The reputation of Rose Bertin grew rapidly, and 
soon reached her native town. Among her customers 
she counted several inhabitants of Abbeville^ a fact 
which was testified by her books of account. 

In the meantime the new Dauphine, very fond of 
chiffon and ribbons and of all feminine finery, was 
going to introduce — or at least to augment — at 
the Court of Versailles the cult of fashion, which 
is often nothing but an insupportable slavery. When 
Rose Bertin had the honour of approaching Marie- 
Antoinette for the first time, she at once knew, thanks 
to her flail' as a business w^oman and her subtlety as a 
native of Picardy, what benefit she could derive from 
her situation. She had only to flatter the Dauphine, 
which was not so very difficult, and by pleasing the 
latter vastly increase her own income. 

According to the " Souvenirs " of Leonard, Rose 
Bertin is supposed to have been introduced to the 
Dauphine in 1772. The author of these " Souvenirs " 
is unknown, and the authenticity of the work has 
been contested ; but it is one of the few writings 
which make allusion to Mile. Bertin. This so-called 
Leonard not only pretends that he was the first to 
introduce Rose to Marie- Antoinette, but he even 
boasts of his intimate relations with the beautiful 
milliner. We shall quote the following passage from 
these *' Souvenirs": 


" One morning I was informed by my servant that 
a young lady wished to see me. 1 soon found myself 
in the presence of a young, beautiful, and very elegant 
person, whose manners were charming. Her manner 
w^as at first somewhat reserved. I at once thousfht 
that tlie charming person had come to solicit my 
influence at Court in her own favour or in favour of 
some relation. And, indeed, I was not mistaken. I 
made the young lady sit down near the fireplace, and 
I at once noticed that she often availed herself of the 
opportunity to show her beautifully-shaped foot ; and 
a beautifully-shaped ankle always makes a man dis- 
posed to listen favourably to a woman. 

'' ' You will not be surprised at my visit, M. Leo- 
nard,' said this seductive person, ' if I tell you who 
I am. My name is Rose Bertin. The Princesse 
de Conti and the Duchesse de Chartres have kindly 
promised to introduce me to Her Royal Highness 
the Dauphine ; but you know what these great ladies 
are — one must never press them. I have there- 
fore come to you, M. Leonard, whose constant 
attendance upon Her Highness will give you ample 
opportunities to speak on my behalf And you are 
constantly being consulted upon everything relating 
to dress — your recommendation will no doubt have 
a decisive effect' " 

M. Leonard promised his help. And, indeed, 
he kept his word, and at the very first opportunity 
he mentioned the name of Rose Bertin to the 


" Mile. Rose Bertin !" said Marie - Antoinette. 
''You are right to mention her to me, for I now 
remember that the Duchesse de Chartres and the 
Princesse de Conti have also spoken of her in very 
high terms. Comtesse de Misery," continued the 
Dauphine, turning to her first Lady-in- Waiting, " will 
you please write to Mile. Rose Bertin, and command 
her presence here to-morrow." 

Rose Bertin was punctual, and introduced to 
Marie-Antoinette according to all the rules of Court 
etiquette. Marie- Antoinette gave the young milliner 
an order of 20,000 livres. Thus, according to the 
author of the " Souvenirs," Rose Bertin became Court 
milliner of the Dauphine in 1772. The dates are in 
all probability exact, but the details of the intro- 
duction and presentation of Rose Bertin to Marie- 
Antoinette as given by Leonard are pure invention. 
Leonard Anti^, who enjoyed a considerable reputa- 
tion, did not live in the Palace of Versailles, as the 
" Souvenirs " pretend. He was the hairdresser of 
Marie-Antoinette, but was in daily attendance upon 
her. His services were only required on gala-days 
and special occasions. The daily coiffeur of the 
Dauphine was Leonard's brother, who was beheaded 
during the Terror, and consequently could not have 
written the " Souvenirs," which were compiled at a 
much later period. Other dates tend to prove that 
the whole story of Rose's introduction to the Dauphine 
by Leonard, who at that moment had absolutely no 
influence at the Court of Versailles, he having been 


appointed only in 1779, is devoid of all ti^uth. These 
" Souvenirs " contain numerous anecdotes and in- 
sinuations and allusions to the part played by Marie- 
Antoinette in various affairs. Rose Bertin is often 
mixed u]^ with these affairs — as, for instance, that 
of the masked ball, where, at the suggestion of the 
Comte d'Artois, the Dauphine was present. Accord- 
ing to the author of the " Souvenirs," Leonard was 
ordered to arrange this nocturnal expedition and to 
provide the costumes. 

" I want to go to a masked ball," said Marie- 
Antoinette ; " Leonard will help us. He will arrange 
with Mile. Bertin about the costume, and we will 
dress at the Tuileries. We will leave here at mid- 
night accompanied by the little Marquise de Langeac, 
and be at the Tuileries at twelve thirty-five. Rose 
Bertin will be waiting for us at the Pavilion de Flore ; 
at one thirty we shall be at the ball, and leave at three 
o'clock ; and before the clocks strike four we shall 
be asleep in our beds at Versailles." 

" I arranged the costume of the Dauphine," adds 
the so-called Leonard, " together with Mile. Rose 
Bertin. The Dauphine went disguised as a Swiss 
peasant woman. When the costume was finished and 
the disguise, we left in two carriages — the Dauphine, 
the Prince, and the Marquise, in one, and Leonard 
and Rose in another. I do not know whether during 
our ride from the Tuileries to the house of Dauberval 
Mme. de Langeac had noticed what degree of intimacy 
existed between Mile. Rose and myself, but when 


we arrived the malicious little gipsy (the Comtesse 
was disguised as such) pinched me cruelly, and 
whispered into my ear : ' I like the intrigues o^ a 
masked ball very much, but never in the capacity 
of a passive spectator.' " 

There is no doubt a great deal of fatuity in all 
that the author of the "Souvenirs" relates; but 
the enemies of Marie- Antoinette did not hesitate 
afterwards to make use of them, and in their 
pamphlets introduced, without distinction of rank or 
sex, all those who were constantly in the entourage 
of the Queen, so as to give a greater semblance o£ 
truth to their accusations. 

Indeed, Rose Bertin did not require the recom- 
mendations of Leonard to get on at Court. Were 
not the Duchesse de Chartres and the Princesse de 
Conti her patronesses ? And in 1773 the little 
milliner made use of her influence on her relatives 
who had been imprisoned in the Bastille. 

The relatives of Rose were booksellers established 
in the Rue de la Juiverie. In March, 1772, a per- 
quisition had already been made in the shop in conse- 
quence of the publication of certain pamphlets directed 
against the '' Parlements," and especially of a 
satirical work in which the Chancellor Maupeou was 
being attacked and criticized. And now the widow 
M^quignon, a relative of Rose's, was arrested on 
June 19, 1772, " and at once led away to be confined 
in the Bastille."* 

* "Journal de Hardy," MS. 6681, in the Bibliotheque 


Eose made use of her influence at Court, and did 
her best to deliver the widow M^quignon and her 
son. She spared neither time nor trouble, and at 
last succeeded in interesting the Dauphine herself 
in the matter. On September 4, 1773, the two 
prisoners left the Bastille. Their freedom had been 
obtained not without some difficulty, for Mai^ie- 
Antoinette had to do with Maupeou, who as a rule 
did not like to relincjuish the prey he had got hold 
of. The widow Mequignon, although set free, was, 
however, not discharged, but sentenced, on January 22, 
1774, to be exiled for five years from Paris. But 
Rose Bertin was tenacious, and therefore her protec- 
tresses, above all the Dauphine, opposed the Chan- 
cellor's decision. The " Journal de Hardy " gives some 
details with regard to this affair, adding that, thanks 
to the insistence of Rose Bertin, the Dauphine at 
last made Maupeou revoke the sentence against the 
widow M(^quignon on February 21, 1774. Marie- 
Antoinette even expressed the wish to see that 
widow Mequignon on whose behalf she had so 
graciousl}^ intervened. On February 24, therefore, 
the lady had the honour of dining with the 
Dauphine, ** who expressed her great satisfaction at 
having rendered such service to the res2')ectable 
widow, and thus saved her and her family from the 
consequences of a severe sentence." This opinion on 
the character of the widow, expressed by her colleague 
the bookseller Hardy, whose veracity is above sus- 
picion, only tends to justify the steps taken by the 


milliner and the initiative of Marie-Antoinette. 
Maupeou and the Archbishop of Paris were both 
annoyed at the turn the matter had taken, and only 
reluctantly disarmed. Some time afterwards, there- 
fore, the Archbishop of Paris, who never missed an 
opportunity of showing his antagonism towards the 
Jansenists, no matter to what sex or condition they 
belonged, accused the widow M^quignon of Jansenism. 
The magistrates, however, found it impossible to 
justify the accusations of the prelate. 

Thus ended this matter, the result of which was a 
triumph of Rose Bertin. 

But the widow Mdquignon also derived consider- 
able benefit from her temporary arrest, for she 
remained Court bookseller until the Revolution, 
and it was from her that Mme. de Tourzel bought 
the books required for the royal Princes, as is 
testified by the accounts of 1790-1792, kept at the 
Archives Rationales. 

During all this time the workshops of Rose Bertin 
were producing bonnets a la Chartres — a creation 
expressing Rose's gratitude for her benefactress — 
bonnets a la Sultane^ au Tresor 7'oyal^ il la Car- 
melite^ and were trimming dresses d la Musulmane. 
The prices of the bonnets a la Chartres varied from 
7 to 14 livres, whilst the others amounted to about 
30 livres. The trimmings of a robe a la Musulmane 
cost 136 livres. Ever since Rose had been appointed 
to furnish the bonnets and dresses of Marie- An- 
toinette her reputation had been rapidly increasing, 


To face r>igc 2( 


and she had been obliged to augment the number 
of her employees. But her real importance only 
dates from May, 1774, when Louis XVI. succeeded 
Louis XY. The first thing Rose did was to change 
the inscription on her signboard, and replace her 
Christian name by that of her family. At Court 
she was still known as Mile. Rose, but in town her 
dignity of Milliner of the Queen required it that she 
should call herself Mile. Bertin. Her success was 
great. The best families of the aristocracy were 
among her customers, such as the Marquise de 
Bouill^, the Coratesse de Duras, the Duchesse de la 
Vauguyon, the Princesse de Gudm6ne, etc. 

The budget of the dress department of the 
Dauphine amounted in 1773 to 120,000 livres, and 
the expenses were regulated by the Duchesse de 
Cosse : 32,000 were spent on ordinary dresses, 
whilst 82,000 covered the extraordinary expenses. 
In 1774 the figures were the same, but they were 
soon to increase. 

The winter of 1774 was approaching its end, when 
a new fashion of hairdress made its appearance, and 
was baptized the Ques aco. " It consisted of a 
panache in plumes, which the elegant ladies wore 
at the back of their heads." The name Ques aco 
is supposed to have been taken from a memoire by 
Beaumarchais, directed against a certain Marin, 
whom the author had ridiculized. The mdinoire of 
Beaumarchais had an enormous success, and the 
expression of Ques aco became very popular. 


Marie-Antoinette had taken an interest in this 
event, the name of Beaumarchais beins^ mentioned at 
Court very often, and she had asked for an explana- 
tion of the Provenc^al expression. When she under- 
stood it, she frequently happened to make use of it. 
Among her intimates, Rose Bertin, who was always 
((u eourant of big and little events, always in search 
of new ideas and new creations, and names by which 
to })aptize the latter, was quick enough to make use 
of the incident, and soon imagined a new hairdress 
known as the Ques aco. Generally speaking, every- 
thing relating to fashion is of ephemeral character, 
but the headgears of those days were prodigiously so. 
A month after the introduction of the Ques aco a 
new invention took its place ; it was the famous 
pouf aux sentimeiits. " The poiif aux sentiments j^' 
writes the continuator of Bachaumont on April 26, 
1774, "is a new hairdress which has succeeded the 
Ques aco, and is infinitely superior to the former, on 
account of the numerous things which were required 
for its composition, and the genius employed to vary 
it artistically. It is called pouf on account of the 
numerous objects which it can contain, and aux sen- 
timents because these objects must have a certain 
relation to what one loves best, and express one's 
preferences. Every woman is madl}^ anxious to 
have ^ pouf J' 

Leonard Antid is supposed to have excelled in the 
art of placing poufs of gauze, which were introduced 
between the locks, and one day he employed for that 


purpose about 14 yards of gauze for one hairdresg. But 
all these powy-s- differed greatly from the pouf aux senti- 
ments owing to their simplicity ; they also required 
no assistance from the milliner. The poiif aux senti- 
ments could contain such various objects as fruit, 
flowers, vegetables, stuffed birds, dolls, and many 
other things giving expression to the tastes, the 
preferences, and the sentiments, of the wearer. 

The continuator of the memoires of Bachaumont has 
left us a description of a pouf aux sentim.ents worn by 
the Duchesse de Chartres : " In the background was 
the image of a woman carrying an infant in arms ; 
it referred to the Due de Valois and his nurse. To 
the right was a parrot picking a cherry ; the parrot 
was the Duchess's pet bird. To the left was a little 
nigger — the image of him whom she loved very much. 
All this was ornamented with locks from the hair of 
the Due de Chartres, the husband, the Due de 
Penthievre, the father, and the Due d' Orleans, the 
father-in-law, of the lady." 

This craze in hairdress, with its accumulation of 
family relics and souvenirs, may have been touching, 
but strikes one as rather ridiculous, more ridiculous 
than the landscapes in hair Avhich enjoyed a certain 
voo'ue durinii' the first half of the nineteenth century, 
and in the composition of which Frederic Sauvage 
greatly excelled. 

Another famous pouf was that of the Duchesse 
de Lauzun.^' The Duchesse one day appeared at a 

* Cf. Comte.sse d'Adhcmar (Lamothe-Langon), *' Souvenirs 
sur Marie-Antoinette,'' t. ii., Paris, 1836. 


reception of the Marquise du DeflPant's wearing a 
most delicious pou/. It contained a stormy sea, ducks 
swimming near the shore, someone on the point of 
shooting one of them ; on the top of the head there 
was a mill, the miller's wife being made love to by 
an abbsj whilst near the ear the miller could be seen 
leading a donkey. 

It was also in consequence of one of these poufs 
that a stormy scene took place one day between Mile. 
Rose Bertin and the famous Mile. Quinault, who 
occupied an apartment in the Louvre, just underneath 
that of Sedaine, and where she had received the most 
distinguished people of the century. 

Everybody was talking of the poufs created by the 
firm of Bertin, and Mile. Quinault also wished to 
have one made in the famous workshop. She there- 
fore simply sent her maid for Mile. Bertin. The 
latter, however, took no notice of the message. Then 
Mile. Duport, chambermaid and favourite of Mile. 
Quinault, came in her mistress's carriage, and asked 
Mile. Rose how she dared to disobey the order she 
had received. The milliner lost her temper, and a 
quarrel ensued. The chambermaid was surprised at 
the insolence of an ordinary milliner, to which Rose 
replied that a milliner who had the honour of being 
employed by Her Majesty the Queen was, anyhow, as 
good as a former opera actress. This was too much 
for the chambermaid. Mile. Quinault was married 
to the Due de Nevers, and the working woman had 
dared to insult a member of the highest aristocracy. 


Several ladies secretly married to noblemen of the 
highest rank saw themselves offended in the person 
of the Duchess, and all unanimously demanded the 
punishment of Mile. Berlin. The latter at first fought 
bravely against her enemies ; was she not sure of the 
friendship and affection of the Queen ? But the 
excitement caused by the incident was so great that 
Marie- Antoinette herself advised Rose to humiliate 
herself and to ask Mile. Quinault's forgiveness. The 
Queen's wish was law to Rose. She went straight to 
the Louvre, and to the apartments of Mile. Quinault, 
where she asked for Mme. Duport. 

*' And what does the Bertin woman want ?" asked 
the latter. 

The Bertin woman ! To be called " the Bertin 
woman " by a chambermaid was a terrible insult, 
when ladies of the aristocracy addressed her as 
Mademoiselle, and often even as Madame. But Rose 
kept her temper, and simply asked to see Mile. 
Quinault. " Mademoiselle is unwell, and will not be 
able to see her milliner,'' was the reply; "but we 
will inquire." Rose was kept waiting for nearly an 
hour, and at last was admitted into the presence of 
the former actress. Mile. Quinault at first took no 
notice whatever of Rose Bertin, and when the latter 
beiran to offer her excuses the offended Queen of the 
Stao'e listened calmly, without even raising her head. 
When Mile. Bertin had finished, the offended Mile. 
Quinault replied : " My good woman, a creature of 
your position ought to learn to be polite to her betters, 


and to obey the orders of those who pay her — you 
may go ! " 

These words are characteristic of the eighteenth 
centary. It is astonishing that, with her character, 
her sense of independence, and her pride, Rose should 
have remained faithful to the past when the Revolu- 
tion broke out. But she was very devoted to the 
Queen, and it was this devotion which prevented her 
from becoming an enemy of the Monarchy. 

She left the apartment of Mile. Quinault in such a 
state of rage that she was ill for more than six weeks. 
For more than a fortnight Paris talked of nothing 
but the incident of Quinault-Bertin, and ever after- 
wards Mile. Bertin was exceedingly polite to all her 
customers. The death of the King put an end to the 
pouf aiix sentiments. 

" The mourning for the King," writes the Baroness 
d'Oberkirch in her memoirs, "put an end to a very 
ridiculous fashion which usurped the place of the 
Ques aco. This was the jiouf aux sentiments. It was 
a head-dress into which may be introduced the like- 
ness o£ any person or thing for which one may feel 
affection, such as a miniature of one's daughter or 
mother, a picture of a canary or a dog, etc., adorned 
with the hair of a father or of a beloved friend. It 
was a most incredible piece of extravagance. We 
were determined to follow the fashion, and the Princess 
Dorothea once amused herself for an entire day by 
wearing on her ear the picture of a woman holding a 
bunch of keys, and which, she declared, was Mme. 

Artrf Jm^0Jut 


! Fit r-' dn-cfii 







-^SBb-'' ^Bhte 

.^m "^K^ 




Jr^Si £^^^ e€^ta3n^ 

M/'Si€ C'triicralei 

FASHION IN 177;-- 

To face page Ml' 


Hendel. The femme de charge thought it a striking 
likeness, and was almost out of her senses with pride 
and joy/' This Mme. Hendel was femme de charge 
of Princess Dorothea at the Castle of Montbeliard. 

Thus, according to Mme. d'Oberkirch, who was 
herself one of Mile. Bertin's customers, the fashion of 
the pouf was extremely ridiculous, and only suitable 
for a carnival. And yet, by some inexplicable aberra- 
tion of good taste, this predilection for the ridiculous, 
as far as fashions are concerned, may be noticed at 
various epochs, and we have only to mention the 
crinoline, which hid the beautiful lines of the female 

But there were still sensible women whom the 
eccentricities of fashion did not affect. And the 
Marquise de Cr^qui, who, as it appearvS, had never been 
one of Rose's customers, makes fun of the importance 
attached by the ladies to a new hat or a new hair- 
dress. " Neither Cassar nor Epaminondas," writes 
the Marquise, *'have spent so much thought upon 
the arrangement of their armies or the event of a 
battle, as is being spent by my contemporaries upon 
a pouf, or a well-adjusted ribbon, or a bouquet. 
Too much consideration is given to the inventors 
of fashion, whilst real merit is being neglected. We 
must be like the others, and avoid appearing peculiar 
and singular — this I admit. But we may at the same 
time try to be neat in our simplicity, noble in our 
tastes, and modest in our fashions. For fashion is a 
tyrant under whose rule only fools consent to bend." 




The young Queen's dressmaker was celebrated above 
all for her creation of foufs ; but as the novelty of 
the poufaux sentiments had passed, it was imperative 
that a new style should be invented. Rose Bertin's 
genius rose to the occasion, and hats d VIphigenie 
and poufs h la circonstance (topical toques) made their 
appearance. The first style was well adapted to 
current events. The Court was in mourning for the 
King, and, according to the " Correspondance Secrete," 
hats a riphiginie were made of a simple crown of black 
flowers, surmounted by a crescent of Diana, with a 
short veil falling at the back, partially covering the 

Gluck's tragedy " Iphig^nie en Aulide " was pre- 
sented in Paris for the first time on April 19, 1774, 
and was the occasion of a great outcry which Marie- 
Antoinette was instrumental in appeasing, and in 
assuring the success of her favourite composer. The 
triumph of Gluck's opera was flattering to her claims 
as a musical critic. 



The pouf a la circonstance was a flattering tribute to 
the new monarch. It was intended to represent the 
change of reign. Mile. Bertin possessed all the qualities 
that make for success ; she brought to the profit of her 
trade the obsequiousness of the most assiduous courtier. 
The pouf was composed of a tall cypress ornamented 
with black marigolds, the roots being represented by 
a piece of crape ; on the right side a large sheaf of 
wheat was placed, leaning against a cornucopia from 
which peeped out an abundance of grapes, melons, 
figs, and other fruit, beautifully imitated ; white 
feathers were mixed with the fi^uit. The hat was a 
riddle ; the answer was as follows : While weeping 
the dead monarch, though the roots of sorrow reach 
to the hearts of his subjects, yet the riches of the new 
reign are already looming in view. 

These poufs varied in style : some represented the 
sun rising over a wheat-field, where Hope was reaper, 
being the same riddle more briefly depicted. The 
pouf a la circonstance was short-lived, being quickly 
replaced by the pouf a V inoculation^ another of Mile. 
Bertin's inventions. The King had been vaccinated 
on June 18, 1774. The custom of inoculation in use 
for centuries among the peoples in the vicinity of the 
Caspian Sea had been imported into England from 
Constantinople in 1738, and into France in 1755. 
The operation on the King gave Mile. Bertin a new 
idea ; the pfoiif a Vinoculation celebrated the occasion. 
It represented a rising sun, and an olive-tree laden 
with fi'uit, round which a serpent was twisted, hold- 


ing a flower-wreathed club. The classical serpent of 
^sculapius represented medicine, and the club was 
the force which could overcome disease. The rising 
sun was the young King himself, great-grandson of 
the Hoi-Soleil, to whom all eyes were turned. The 
olive-tree was the symbol of peace, and also of the 
tender affection with which all were penetrated at 
the news of the happy success of the operation 
which the King and the Royal Family had under- 

As one may see, pastoral simplicity was not yet 
gaining adherents. The Royal Family went to Marly 
after their vaccination. In her memoirs, Mme. Campan 
states that it was then that Rose was presented 
to the Queen. In this she is at variance with 
the spurious *' Souvenirs '' of Leonard, and with the 
memoirs of the period from which the author of 
the " Souvenirs " borrowed his anecdotes. But Mme. 
Campan's criticism of the milliner's admission to the 
intimacy of the Queen is interesting : 

" It was during this first visit to Marly that the 
Duchesse de Chartres, afterwards Duchesse d'Orl^ans, 
introduced Mile. Bertin to the Queen. Mile. Bertin 
was a milliner who had become famous at this 
period because of the transformation she had effected 
in French fashions. 

** One may say that the admission of a dressmaker 
into the Queen's apartments had disastrous conse- 
quences. The admission of a person of her social 
class was contrary to all usage, and by her persuasive 


tongue it became possible for her to induce the 
Queen to adopt some new style daily. Up to that 
time the Queen's taste in dress had been very 
simple, but thenceforward dress became her chief 
occupation, in which she was naturally imitated by 
all women. 

*' Each one immediately wished to wear the same 
things as the Queen, her feathers, her garlands of 
flowers, which charmingly became her beauty, then 
in all its splendour. The expenses of young women 
greatly increased, and mothers and husbands grum- 
bled ; some flighty individuals contracted debts, and 
deplorable family scenes ensued, several couples 
quarrelled or sulked, and it was generally rumoured 
that the Queen would ruin all the French ladies. . . . 
Innumerable caricatures of the fashions exhibited 
everywhere, and in which the Queen's portrait might 
be maliciously traced, were useless ; the fashion 
changed, as it always does, only through the influence 
of time and fickleness. 

*' The admission of Mile. Bertin to the Queen's 
apartments caused a small revolution in the palace, 
the Ladies-in-Waiting opposmg it as far as they dared. 
When the Queen's hair was dressed," continues Mme. 
Cam pan, " she bowed to these ladies, and retired into 
her room accompanied only by her personal atten- 
dants. Mile. Bertin awaited her in an adjoining 
room, as she was not allowed to enter the Queen's 
own apartment." 

The Queen's ladies, jealous of their prerogative, 


complained bitterly, and when one day during the 
course of 1774 Louis XYI. said to the Queen, " You 
like flowers ; well, I have a bouquet to present to 
you — it is Trianon," her one wish was to take refuge 
there, in order to escape all the ceremonious regula- 
tions which were an annoyance to her. " She wished 
to be dressed by Mile. Bertin in her own room, and 
not be condemned to take refuge in an inner cabinet, 
because her ladies refused to allow Mile. Bertin to 
enter the rooms under their charge." 

But the chief Lady-in- Waiting had to bow to the 
royal will, and endeavour to be as cordial as possible 
to the favourite milliner. The post of chief lady 
had been held by the Duchesse de Villars from Marie- 
Antoinette's arrival in France, in 1770, until Sep- 
tember 15, 1771. After her death she was replaced 
by the Duchesse de Coss6 until June, 1775, who was 
followed by the Princesse de Chimay. The latter 
only held the position until September of the same 
year, being then replaced by Mme. de Mailly, who 
in her turn was replaced by the Comtesse d'Ossun in 

" The business of the chief Lady-in -Waiting was to 
see that the Queen was suitably dressed, and had all 
the dresses and clothes she required. She also paid 
the bills, an allowance o£ 100,000 francs being 
made for this purpose, which was supplemented 
when any extraordinary expenses were necessary, 
which frequently haj^pened. 

'' Mme. Campan, who has given a detailed account 


of all these private matters, says that this lady used 
to sell dresses, muffs, laces, and cast-off finery, for her 
own profit, and the gain was very considerable. 

" This lady," says Mme. Campan, ** had at her 
orders a head lady's-maid to fold and iron the 
different articles of dress, two valets of the wardrobe, 
and a page of the wardrobe. The latter' s duty was 
to take to the Queen's room baskets covered with 
green cloth, containing all the clothes the Queen 
would require for the day. He gave the head lady's- 
maid a book containing patterns of dresses, state 
robes, simple dresses, etc., with a little piece of trim- 
ming of each. The lady's-maid gave the book and 
pincushion to the Queen, when the latter awoke. 
The Queen then marked with pins the patterns of the 
dresses she wished to wear." 

One of these books of patterns is extant, and can 
be seen in the Archives Nationales ; it is for the year 

"When the Queen's toilette was completed, the 
valets and pages came in and took away all the 
superfluous articles to the wardrobe, where they were 
re-folded, hung up, and cleaned with such care that 
even the older dresses had all the brilliance of the 
new ones. 

" Three rooms lined with cupboards, some with 
shelves, some to hang garments, were set aside for the 
Queen's wardrobe ; large tables in these rooms served 
to lay the dresses on to be folded. 

" The Queen usually had for winter twelve state 


dresses, twelve simple dresses, and twelve rich dresses 
on panniers, which she used for card-parties or in- 
timate supper-parties. 

^' Summer and spring toilettes served for autumn 
wear also. All these toilettes were remodelled at the 
end of each season, unless Her Majesty desired to 
keep some as they were. No mention is made of 
muslin and cotton, or other dresses of that kind ; 
these had only recently come into fashion, and they 
were not renewed each season, but were made to 
serve for several years."* 

In the French Court everything was done accord- 
ing to tradition : *' a certain stuflP was worn in winter, 
another kind in summer. Fashion was carried to the 
extent of fixing certain colours for certain seasons, such 
as gold for frosty days, and silver for the dog-days. 
Anyone appearing in the gallery at Versailles attired 
in an unseasonable manner was looked upon as a 
person of bad style unused to the ways of society.^f 

Was Mile. Bertin presented to Marie- Antoinette 
whilst she was Dauphine, or not until 1774, after 
the death of Louis XV. ? It would seem at first that 
Mme. Campan, whose duties gave her the opportunity 
of learning the details of the Queen*s daily life, is 
probably in the right ; at the same time we must 
remember that Mile. Bertin may very well have been 
presented to Marie- Antoinette while she was yet 
Dauphine without being granted easy access to her 

* Comtesse d Adhemar, " Souvenirs sur Marie- Antoinette." 
t Rassel d'Epinal, " Le Chateau des Tuileries." 


apartments. In any case it is certain that from the 
year 1774 Rose Bertin came regularly twice a week 
to show her creations to the Queen. She continued 
to do so without interruption until after October 6, 
with the exception of the first month following on 
the death of the Empress Maria- Theresa. 

This took up a great deal of Rose's time ; she 
therefore informed her clients that she was to be seen 
at her own residence on certain appointed days, but 
would be no longer able to go to her clients' houses. 
Her manner of announcing this was perhaps rather 
tactless ; she displayed, probably, some haughtiness, 
which exasperated all the fine ladies of Paris j in fact, 
if her shop was not instantly deserted, it was merely 
because it was considered good style to patronize the 
same milliner as the Queen. 

Although Rose had succeeded in pleasing Marie- 
Antoinette, the Duchesse de Chartres, and the Princesse 
de Conti, her manners were not to the taste of many of 
the ladies with whom she had dealings. The follow- 
ing is a criticism of her given in the Baroness d'Ober- 
kirch's memoirs : 

"' The jargon of mademoiselle was exceedingly 
amusing ; it was a singular mixture of haughtiness and 
cringing humility, and came very near impertinence 
if one did not hold her at arm's length, and degener- 
ated into insolence when one did not nail her to 
her place." 

The Queen being the first to wear the pouf d 
IHyioculation^ all the ladies of the Court immediately 


followed suit. Mile. Bertin was no longer able to 
cope with the work alone, and employed thirty work- 
girls, but each piece of headgear cost 10 louis, which 
was a pretty good price. 

This eagerness to seize any topical event for a new 
creation was a special characteristic of the great 
milliner's genius, a characteristic which was mimicked 
by all her competitors of both sexes, amongst whom 
the celebrated Beaulard must be placed in the first 
rank. It was with great justice that a journal en- 
titled the Cabinet des Modes could say in 1786 : 
*' Fashion, that has been called by her detractors 
' light, fickle, flighty, and frivolous,' has, however, 
fixed principles. We see her constant in seizing and 
appropriating to herself every event of interest, con- 
signing it to her annals, rendering it immortal in 
history. What great event, what signal deed of our 
warriors, or even of our magistrates, has she not 
published ? If the D'Estaings and D'Orvilliers have 
conquered, did she not advertise their victory ? Did 
she not decree that ladies should wear on their heads 
tributes to these deeds, so that, entering thus by the 
extremity of their bodies, these deeds should be 
engraved on their hearts? Did she not announce to 
the whole of Europe the success of Figaro? Under 
how many shapes did she not reproduce Janot ? Did 
not even Cagliostro, more famous by his lawsuit than 
by his lying immortality, find that fashion had made 
his existence known from one hemisphere to the 
other ? . . . We flatter ourselves that our assertion 


that the Cabinet des Modes may be of use even to 
historians will not be denied." 

The editor of this journal was in the right in sing- 
ing the praises of fashion, which is not often ap- 
preciated in this way. The following lines written 
by Meister in his '' Correspond ance Litteraire " for 
November, 1774, are a proof: '^ If ever a book of 
morals is written for our young Parisian ladies, I beg 
the author to attack fiercely the extravagant head- 
dresses, and above all the bad taste of Beaulard, 
inventor of all these absurdities. 

" This man racks his brains to represent on the 
heads of young women all the most important events 
recorded in the newspapers. One may see a bonnet 
portraying the opening of Parliament, another the 
Battle of Ivry and Henry IV., another an English 
garden — in fact, all historical events, ancient and 
modern. It so happens that head-dresses are no 
longer in keeping with the costumes of the day, and 
so more picturesque ones are being invented, and 
presently women will unconsciously find themselves 
dressing so theatrically that for ball dresses, which 
must differ from ordinary dress, there will be nothing 
left but nightcaps and bed-gowns." 

These censures, however, did not interfere with 
Beaulard, nor with Mile. Bertin, to whom they could 
be well applied, as she was capable of just such 
extravagant inventions. 

Mile. Bertin did not look with pleasure upon the 
fame of her rival Beaulard. She came to the Queen 


one day, and complained, with tears in her eyes, of the 
favour shown him by certain great ladies. She had 
cause to be alarmed at his success ; he was a man of 
great imagination, and during the days of the poufs 
auoc sentiments invented some very original ones, 
capable of rivalling the confections of the Rue Saint- 
Honor6. His fame was considerably increased by 
his invention of a curious bonnet called d la bonne 
maman — granny bonnets. 

The Comtesse d'Adhemar, in her " Souvenirs sur 
Marie- Antoinette," relates the following anecdote of 
Beaulard : *' A foreigner came to him. ' Monsieur,' 
she said, ' I wish you to invent a stylish hat for me. 
I am English, the widow of an Admiral ; I need say 
no more, your taste will do the rest.' 

" The skilful milliner set to work after some 
meditation, and two days later he brought the 
haughty islander a bonnet that was truly divine. 
Billowy gauze represented a rough sea, and by means 
of ribbon and ornaments he had managed to portray 
a fleet carrying a mourning flag in sign of the widow- 
hood of the lady. When she appeared with this 
marvellous work of art, just cries of admiration were 
heard on all sides ; but Beaulard's vogue was brought 
to its zenith by his creation of the bonnet a la bonne 

" To appreciate it, one must know that grand- 
mothers, in fact all the old Court, disapproved of the 
height of the modern head - dress. Consequently 
bonnets a la bonne maman were raised to a fashion- 

Muscc Cariw.valtl 


Buniict called F.c Lever ile la R'ilm 

To face page 44 


able height by means of a spring, and lowered when 
a bad-tempered grandmamma appeared on the scene. 
All young women wished for one, and Mile. Bertin 
never pardoned any of her clients for their temporary 
infidelity to her, caused by the rage for Beaulard's 

All these frivolities and various anecdotes that 
were spread abroad did harm to Marie- Antoinette, 
who was exposed to the most virulent criticism. In 
the first place, as Soulavie tells us : *' The lady aunts 
who could not resign themselves to adopting these 
extravagant fashions, nor to model themselves daily 
on the Queen, called her feathers the trappings of a 
horse."* But this was just a saying; the Abb^ 
Baudeau, in his " Chronique Secrete de Paris sous 
Louis XVL," describes the state of things better. 
** The Queen is shot at with bullets of fire," he writes 
under date July 11, 1774 ; " there is no horror that 
is not told of her, and the most contradictory stories 
are believed by certain persons." 

It would have been strange indeed if Rose had 
escaped malicious tales, which were the current coin 
of wit during that perverse, fickle, and depraved 
century. We are therefore not surprised to read in 
Soulavie's book these lines, " They accused her 
[Marie- Antoinette] of secret intrigues with Mile. 
Bertin, dressmaker of the capital, and with the Misses 
Guimard, Renaud and Gentil," without counting the 

* "Memoires Historiques et PoHtiques du Regne de 
Louis XVL,'' t. ii., Paris, an x. 


others, of course. A joke, a mark of interest, a smile, 
a word of the Queen, sufficed to fire the imagination 
of the pamphleteers in the pay of Mme. Adelaide in 
particular, to conceive the most incredible tales. 

Rose Bertin, whose art, as we have seen, was not to 
the taste of the lady aunts, did not escape the arrows 
of the ungallant scribblers whose pens were hired by 
the anti- Austrian clique, at whose head the aunts 
had placed themselves. All the same, Mme. Adelaide's 
ladies — amongst others Mme. de Beon — were Mile. 
Bertin's clients. 

It must be admitted, however, in excuse of her 
critics, that Marie - Antoinette gave a handle to 
criticism by her irresponsible and reprehensible con- 
duct, and above all by her extravagance. In October, 
1774, her allowance was raised from 96,000 to 
200,000 livres, and it was not long before this was 
insufficient for her expensive tastes. 

The tales spread abroad about the milliner did not 
injure her trade, and it was still considered good style 
to patronize her establishment. 

Comte Auguste de la March, Prince d'Arenberg, 
having married Mile, de Cernay on November 23, 
1774, the latter ordered a Mohammedan dress in the 
following month, and shortly after a costume a la 
Henri IV. At the same period Rose Bertin executed 
orders for Princesse de Stolberg at Brussels. 

The winter of 1774-75 was exceedingly brilliant ; 
the Queen gave various balls, which was good for 
trade. The balls of December 6 and January 9 were 


particularly successful. On the latter date there 
were quadrilles of masks dressed in the Norwegian 
and Lapland costume. The Queen set the example, 
the nobles followed, and brilliant reunions were given. 
Mercy- Argenteau wrote on the subject to the Empress 
Maria- Theresa on February 20, 1775 : *' Comtesse de 
Brionne having given a private ball at her residence 
at Versailles, after midnight, the Queen, Monsieur, and 
the Comte and Comtesse d'Artois, wished to honour 
the reunion with their presence, and presented them- 
selves without advising the Comtesse de Brionne." 

Four quadrilles were given in their honour : the 
first in old French costumes ; the second represented 
mountebanks ; the third, which was the Queen's, was 
given in Tyrolean costume, and the fourth in Indian. 
The masquerade was so successful that the Queen 
desired it to be repeated the following week at a ball 
which was given at Versailles on January 23, in the 
little theatre. 

To the era of eccentric poufs succeeded that o£ 
gigantic feathers, which began in 1775. The " Corre- 
spondance Secrete " says on January 9 of that year : 
" The Queen has invented for her sleigh drives a 
headgear which combines well with the Ques aco^ but 
which brings into fashion a feminine head-dress of 
a prodigious height. These head-dresses represent 
high mountains, flowery meadows, silvery streams, 
forests, or an English garden. An immense crest 
of feathers supports the edifice at the back. These 
crests, which are renewed daily, called the King's 


attention the other day ; and to show the Queen, as 
gallantly as possible, that they displeased him, he 
presented her with a diamond aigrette, saying : * I 
beg you will limit yourself to this ornament, even 
of which your charms have no need. This present 
should please you the more that it has not increased 
my expenditure, since it is composed of diamonds 
I possessed when I was Dauphin.' After this inci- 
dent our women will no doubt modify their dress. 
We are compelled, however, to admit that these 
huge and costly head-dresses have greatly increased 
our commercial profits. Fashion becomes an indus- 
trial empire too profitable for France not to applaud 
it. A woman's dress is in this country a political 
question, because of its influence on commerce and 

These economic conclusions are interesting. We 
see how fashion, in which Rose Bertin played a far 
more important part than the Queen, had at the same 
time a happy and a disastrous effect. Commerce 
was naturally affected by it ; some industries profited, 
whilst bitter complaints were heard that others were 

'' A milliner and dressmaker admitted to the 
private apartments of the Queen, to the stupefaction 
of all who held by etiquette, Rose Bertin became a 
historic personage. Her influence destroys our old 
industries by completing the revolution commenced 
by the Pompadour and Du Barry, substituting for 
the solid magnificence of old fashions a light, frivolous, 


and fantastic style. At one time we see the Queen, 
and after her all our reigning beauties, affecting 
extreme simplicity, and borrowing the light white 
dresses of their lady's-maids ; now we find them 
swathed in theatrical costumes, with immense crests 
of feathers. They raise upon their heads a gigantic 
scaffolding of gauze, flowers, and feathers, so that, 
according to the caricatures of the period, a woman's 
head was in the middle of her body, and society had 
the appearance of an extravagant fancy ball. 

" The salons laugh at Fashion, but obey it. The 
workshops clamour that the Austrian is ruining the 
manufactures of Lyons — our beautiful silk trade — to 
enrich the lawn factories of Brabanzon and the subjects 
of her brother, Joseph IL"* 

These censures are exaggerated, as lawn factories 
were not the monopoly of Brabanzon ; there were 
many important ones in French provinces, notably in 
Flanders, where there were various famous centres of 
the lawn trade. 

Her great success was, naturally, not calculated to 
decrease the pride of the milliner of the Rue Saint- 
Honor^. She loved to say, *' I have just come from 
working with Her Majesty," and was perpetually 
alluding to her interviews with the Queen. It is 
true that Marie- Antoinette treated her with the 
greatest familiarity, that her door always stood open 
for her dressmaker, and that the importance she 
attached to dress — at least, before the birth of her first 

* Henri Martin, " Histoire de France," t. xvi., 1860. 



son in 1781 — lent a certain importance to her dress- 
maker. It is related that a lady of the highest rank 
of the aristocracy came to her on one occasion to 
inquire why a certain order had not been executed. 
Mile. Bertin replied with comical majesty : '' I can- 
not gratify you. In my last conference with the 
Queen we decided that that fashion should not appear 
until next month." 

Another similar incident is also told of the Rue 
Saint-Honore. One of Mile. Bertin 's permanent 
clients came one day to buy a hat for a provincial 
friend, who desired to have one from the celebrated 
milliner's shop. The client asked to see the milliner 
herself. After some delay she was ushered in, and 
found Rose Bertin lying on a couch in the most 
coquettish neglige. She greeted her client with a 
slight inclination of the head, and, having heard her 
request, rang the bell. '* Mademoiselle Addla'ide," she 
said, as a young employee answered the summons, 
" show madam one of last month's hats." At that 
time, when hats changed from day to day for any 
reason or for none, a hat a month old might be 
absolutely old-fashioned, and the client, offended, 
protested that she desired the very newest style ; 
but with the gesture of a deputy queen, which she 
humorously practised, Rose Bertin cat short her 
reproaches. '* Madam," she said, '^ it is not possible. 
When I last worked with Her Majesty, we decreed 
that the new styles should not appear for another 


It is not amazing that, as a result of these tales, 
which spread like wildfire round salons and boudoirs, 
Rose Berlin was nicknamed the "Minister of Fashion" ; 
at the same time the Ministers of the period, who 
seemed to have no stable opinions, but were per- 
petually changing their views, were nicknamed 
'' fashion-makers." Mile. Bertin, Minister of Fashion, 
was more costly than a Secretary of State. 

The influence she exercised over the Queen led the 
latter, from the first year of her reign, into expenses 
for dress which amounted speedily to a very consider- 
able sum. That year, without the King's knowledge, 
she contracted debts to the incredible total of 300,000 
livres. A large part of this sum, naturally, was owing 
to dressmakers, milliners, feather-merchants, per- 
fumers, and other j^roviders of feminine coquetries. 
But o£ all these there was no one so loved, or whose 
advice was more earnestly solicited, as that of little 

Although Rose was so free and easy with her 
clients, even the most aristocratic, she did not neglect 
her business and the interests of her establishment. 
Every month she despatched to the Northern Courts 
a model dressed in the latest French style. She 
traded with Spain and Portugal, and especially with 
Russia ; and it was said of her that her fame was 
only bounded by the boundaries of Europe. 

In his '' Tableau de Paris," Mercier speaks of this 
model of the Rue Saint- Honor^ in the following 
amusing sketch. 


" Nothing,'^ he says, " equals the gravity of a 
miUiner confectioning a fouf^ and increasing a 
hundredfold the value of gauzes and flowers. Every 
week some new style of edifice is created in the 
world of hats. The inventor becomes famous ; 
women have a profound and tender respect for the 
happy geniuses who vary the advantages of their 
beauty and face. 

" The expenses of fashion now exceed those for 
the table and carriages. The unfortunate husband can 
never calculate the cost of these varying fantasies, 
and he requires ready resources to meet these capri- 
cious calls. He would be pointed at in the streets if 
he did not pay for these frivolities as punctually as 
he pays the butcher and baker. 

" The profound inventors in this line lay down in 
Paris the laws that shall govern the universe. The 
famous model — the precious mannequin attired in 
the newest fashion — is despatched from Paris to 
London every month, and from thence is sent to 
shed its graces round the whole of Europe. It 
travels to the north and to the south ; it goes 
to St. Petersburg and to Constantinople ; and 
all nations, humbly bowing to the taste of the 
Rue Saint-Honor^, imitate the folds turned by a 
French hand. 

*' I met a foreigner who refused to believe in the 
Poupee de la Rue Saint- Honore^ which is despatched 
regularly to the north, to carry there the model of 
the new head-dress, while a second edition is de- 


spatched to the heart of Italy, and from thence finds 
access to the seraglio. I led the unbeliever to the 
famous establishment, and there he saw with his 
eyes and felt with his hand, and in touching he 
seemed still to doubt, it all seemed so incredible to 

Mercier is lacking in enthusiasm for the expenses 
into which his beautiful contemporaries were led ; 
many persons of more simple and of good taste 
believed and said that these eccentricities were a 
temporary craze which would pass, and people would 
return to something more natural. It was an illu- 
sion. The "Correspondance Secrete" was greatly de- 
ceived when, in relating the anecdote of Louis XVI. 
and the diamond aigrette, it said : " No doubt women 
will modify their dress." 

Nothing of the kind occurred ; on the contrary, in 
the next month — February, 1775 — the same paper 
admits that its prediction was incorrect : 

" The head-dress of our women rises higher and 
higher ; to-day a head-dress which a few months ago 
was considered ridiculously high would not be 
tolerated even by the bourgeoisie. Ladies of quality 
wear crests of feathers two or three feet high, and the 
Queen sets the example. On the 17th instant the 
Archduke Maximilien honoured the Opera with his 
presence, and must have been not a little astonished 
to find himself in a forest of feathers." 

Caricaturists had a fine field. Songs were written 
ridiculing the absurd fashions and the rage for 


feathers. Comte d'Adh^mar, amongst others, com- 
posed the following song : 

Air : " Pour la Baronne.'''' 

" Je prends la plume 
Pour celebrer les grands plumets. 
Partage fardeur qui m'allunie, 
Muse, preside a mes couplets : 

Je prends la plume. 

" C'est a la plume 
Que la France doit sa grandeur. 
Henri, dont c'etait la coutume, 
Criait dans le champ de Thonneur : 

C'est a la plume. 

'* C'est a la plume 
Qu'on doit souvent tout son bonheur ; 
Quand sur le feu qui nous consume 
La bouche explique mal le cceur, 

C'est a la plume. 

" Charmantes plumes 
Couvrez les fronts, troublez les coeurs, 
Malgre leurs froides amertumes, 
Vous regnerez sur vos censeurs, 

Charmantes plumes. 

" Toutes les plumes 
Ramenant la fidelite ; 
Amans volages que nous fumes, 
L'amour quitta pour la beaute 
Toutes les plumes. 

" Dessus la plume, 
Quoiqu'il soit doux de discourir, 
II est minuit, et je presume 
Qu'il est plus doux de s'etablir 

Dessus la plume." 


Another song, given below, is more characteristic 
of the age. The author is unknown to us ; it was 
sung to the tune, " Reveillez-vous, belle endormie": 

" Oui, sur la tete de nos dames 
Laissons les panaches flotter. 
lis sont analogues aux femmes, 
Elles font bien de les porter. 

" La femme se peint elle-meme 
Dans ce frivole ajustement ; 
La plume vole, elle est Tembleme 
De ce sexe trop inconstant. 

" Des femmes on salt la coutume, 
Vous font-elles quelque serment ? 
Fiez-vous-y ; comme la plume, 
Autant en emporte le vent. 

" La femme aussi de haut plumage 
Se pare au pays des Incas, 
Mais \k les beautds sont sauvages 
Et les notres ne le sont pas. 

" Tandis que d'un panache, en France, 
Un epoux orne sa moitie, 
D'un autre, avec reconnaissance. 
Par elle, il est gratifie.^' 

Marie- Antoinette's intimacy with her dressmaker 
was the occasion of bitter censure. An amusing 
incident, which, however, justifies the critics, occurred 
during the early months of 1775 : Richard, President 
of the Parliament of Dijon, had a daughter, who in 
her character of Canon ess was to receive a decoration, 
which the Queen had promised to confer on her 


herself. It was a little ceremony to which Mme. 
Richard, the Canoness, attached the greatest impor- 
tance. On the appointed day the Queen, having com- 
pletely forgotten all about it, gave leave of absence to 
Mme. d'Ossun and Mme. de Misery, who were in 
attendance on her, and there was no one with her but 
Mile. Bertin, who had come on business. Suddenly 
the Queen remembered that Mme. Richard was 
coming, and would soon arrive. What was to be 
done ? Marie- Antoinette soon found a way out of 
the difficulty. Mme. Richard had never put her foot 
in the palace before, she probably never would again, 
and the ladies of the Court were quite unknown to 
her. The Queen took Rose into her room and made 
her put on one of her own dresses, at the same time 
teaching her the part she was to play in the cere- 
mony. She had little to do ; it was merely a question 
of holding a basin of water whilst the Queen placed 
the ribbon and cross round the new Abbess's neck. 
Needless to say, Rose's toilette was made amid great 
laughter; but when the Canoness was introduced both 
the Queen and her dressmaker had regained their 
composure, and the little ceremony was performed 
without Mme. Richard's suspicions being aroused as 
to the identity of the Maid of Honour, 

It was about this time that the bonnets d la revolte 
made their appearance. At the beginning of May, 
1775, the high price of flour had caused trouble, and 
bakers' shops were pillaged in Paris on the 3rd. The 
misfortunes of the people were made a pretext for a 

/:.'/'/// !of h I ij V.f N< 'I i"i)fi li: 


Til f;ifc page .''iti 


new fashion. There were also hats a la laitiere, orna- 
mented with ribbons and wreaths of flowers, roses and 
acacias, and so on. The bonnet neglige a la reine 
and the bonnet a la iJaysaiine, had great success. 

On May 27, 1775, an event occurred which greatly 
grieved the famous milliner. The Princesse de Conti 
died in Paris at the age of eighty-one. One might 
almost say that she had led Rose by the hand from 
the door of the Trait Galant to the palace at 
Versailles. It was a great blow to Mile. Bertin. She 
thought with affection of the day when, with hands 
and feet benumbed with the cold, she stood warming 
herself at the flaming fire of the drawing-room in 
the Conti Palace, chatting familiarly with the good 
dowager, never suspecting that she was talking to 
one of the most powerful Princesses in France. 

There was no time, however, for grief; the whirl- 
wind of life swept her onward. Orders poured into 
the shop of the Rue Saint-Honore, and the consecration 
of the King had been fixed for June 10, which meant 
a surplus of work. 

It is uncertain whether Rose did or did not follow 
the Queen to Rheims. The "Souvenirs" of Leonard 
state that she did ; but, as we have seen, little faith can 
be put in that book. In any case, the ceremony occa- 
sioned but a very short break in the extravagant 
fashions, which revived again as soon as the Queen 
returned to Versailles. These eccentricities evoked 
the bitterest criticism, which was directed especially 
against the Queen. The editor of the Cabinet 


des Modes was a true prophet of the future when 
he asserted that his paper would be of service to 
historians, because fashion was the cancer of the age 
— an age of luxury and folly, when ribbons and 
chiffons were the preoccupation of the wealthy^ and 
while the masses were seething with pent-up anger, 
the anger of a people crushed by insolent luxury, 
enraged by the brazen dissoluteness of a heedless 
aristocracy, mad for pleasure, blind with pride and 
self-love, unconscious of the rising tide. 

And yet in her distant capital, far from rumours 
and threats and from flattering courtiers, the Empress 
Maria- Theresa was conscious of the dangers which 
surrounded the French Queen — her clear-sightedness 
penetrated the future. This remarkable and wise 
woman, on receiving a portrait of her daughter 
bedizened in Rose Bertin's best style, returned it by 
her Ambassador, Comte Mercy - Argenteau, with the 
remark : " This is not the portrait of a Queen of 
France ; there is some mistake, it is the portrait of 
an actress." It was a severe lesson, but surely not 
undeserved. The Empress of Austria, far from 
France, was more clear-sighted than her daughter 
or her son-in-law, and saw the dangers ahead. She 
had grasped that the late King's government had 
greatly compromised the monarchy, that the least 
thing would cause the cup of bitterness to overflow, 
and that a Queen of France succeeding to the costly 
reign of a Du Barry should by her economy, her 
simplicity, and her virtues, efface and pay the heavy 


debts of the courtesan, which had fallen on the 
shoulders of the people instead of their King. 

The lesson was of no avail ; the " Memoires Secrets," 
under the date August 19, 1775, tell us that "Her 
Majesty looked upon the reproof as futile and too 
severe, the result of ill-humour caused by age and 
illness ; she did not think it necessary, therefore, to 
modify her dress, and the courtiers allege that the 
very next day the Queen was wearing a still higher 
crest of feathers. Her Majesty's weakness for this 
fragile ornament is such, that a young poet named 
Auguste, having sent a humorous poem to the 
Meixure^ criticizing feathers, it was returned to him, 
as the editors feared to insert it, lest it might offend 
the Queen. All stylish women naturally followed 
their Sovereign's example. The feather trade, which 
was unimportant formerly in France, is now very 
considerable, and at one time the stock at Lyons was 
temporarily exhausted." 

On September 18, 1775, the Princesse de Lamballe, 
one of Rose's chief clients and her protectress, was 
appointed Superintendent of the Queen's Household, 
which was greatly to Mile. Berlin's advantage. She 
knew that the Princess would not oppose her interests, 
nor check an imagination given to perpetual change, 
which was profitable to her trade. 

At this time people did not only trouble about 
the shape and the trimmings in fashion, for the colour 
of the fabrics used in making all kinds of costumes 
for men as well as for women changed just as fre- 


quently. During the summer of 1775 the fashionable 
colour was a kind of chestnut brown, which the 
Queen had chosen for a dress. When the King saw 
it, he exclaimed, " That is puce !" (flea-coloured). 
So puce became the fashion, in the town as well as 
at Court. Men and women ordered puce-coloured 
clothes, and those who did not buy new cloth or 
taffetas sent their old clothes to the dyers. But the 
colour was not always exactly the same shade, so 
they made a difference between old and young flea, 
and then made subdivisions, and you could see 
clothes of the colour of the flea's " back," '' head,'* 
or " thigh,'' and the whole country was covered with 
puce-coloured clothes, when (we may read this in the 
" Memoires Secrets "), " the merchants having offered 
some satins to the Queen, Her Majesty chose an ash 
grey, and Monsieur exclaimed that it was the colour 
of the Queen's hair. From that moment puce was 
out of fashion, and valets were despatched from 
Fontainebleau to Paris to procure velvet, ratteen, 
and cloth, of that colour, and S6 livres the ell was 
the price for some of these just before the Feast of 
St. Martin ; the usual price was from 40 to 42 livres. 
This anecdote, so frivolous on the surface, shows that, 
if the French monarch has a steady head, in spite of 
his youth, the courtiers are just as vain, thoughtless 
and petty as they were under the late King." 

The Queen could in the matter of fashions allow 
herself certain fancies ; she did them honour. Con- 
temporaries are agreed in praising her air and the 


wonderful elegance with which she wore her clothes. 
Horace Walpole — who had seen her at the wedding 
of Mme. Clothilde of France, who married in 1775 the 
future King of Sardinia, Charles Emanuel TV., then 
Prince of Piedmont — wrote to his friends in England : 
" One has eyes for the Queen only ! The Hebes and 
Floras and Helens, and the Graces, are only street 
women compared with her. Seated or standing, she 
is the Statue of Beauty ; when she moves she is Grace 
personified. She wore a silver brocade, flowered with 
pink laurels, but few diamonds and feathers. They 
say that she does not keep time when she dances — 
then the fault was in the time ! Speaking of beauties, 
I have seen none, or else the Queen outshone 

The " Correspondance Secrete " gives us striking 
details of the impudence of feminine taste in the autumn 
of 1775. The hair was dressed so high that we read, 
October 14 : " Women have to kneel in their carriages ; 
you see their faces, as it were, in the middle of their 
bodies." And November 7 : " They are talking of 
substituting tufts of fur for plumes this winter. 
Women will then look like Pashas ; and we believe 
they will be Pashas with more than three tails, and 
that they will lower their head-dresses, which really 
are now worn at such an extravagant height ... I 
have already told you that they decorate their heads 
with imitations of all sorts of plants, and that by 
studying the caps of the past year you may become 
a fairly good botanist. After having exhausted the 


greenhouses, they went to the kitchen-garden produce, 
and at last they sought models at the herbalist's. 
Yesterday at Court they wore caps trimmed with 
small trusses of couch-grass — a splendid imitation, 
of course. You will remark, monsieur, the skilful 
transition made use of to lead us to the branches 
of fur which are going to be the vogue this winter." 
Finally, under the date December 9, we read again 
in this correspondence all about the fashionable 
colours, which in the autumn had been puce, and 
then the colour of the Queen's hair. Never has 
fashion shown so much extravagance ; there are the 
singular colours of '' stifled sighs " and caps of 
^' bitter groans," etc. 

Nevertheless the fashion of feathers did not entirely 
go out Avith the winter of 1776, and Soulavie reports 
that some were sold at 50 livres apiece. Money was 
so easily earned by anything which had to do with 
woman's clothes that Mercier, indignant, wrote in his 
" Tableau de Paris" : '^ Tulle, gauze, and net, occupied 
a hundred thousand hands ; and there were soldiers, 
whole and maimed, making net and offering it for 
sale themselves. Soldiers making net!" 

" To-day," Metra remarks, January 20, 1776, in 
his '* Correspondance Secrete ," " caps take the shape of 
a pigeon, and certainly there is no woman decorated in 
that fashion who does not expect to hear the com- 
])liment that it is one of the doves from her car. 
Feathers are beginning to fall, and this moulting 
truly comes at the right time." 


Never in France have woman exhausted so much art 
to make themselves ridiculous. Hair dressers and 
milliners had to keep their ingenuity perpetually 
active to satisfy clients as frivolous as these with 
whom they dealt. As for the Queen, with the help 
of her hair dressers and Mile. Bertin, she started 
most of the fashions. In 1775 she wore the first 
peacock's feathers in her hair, a fashion immediately 
copied by the whole Court. And here we find the 
reason and excuse of her perpetual changes. While 
feeding her vanity by influencing those who sur- 
rounded her by coquetry, Marie- Antoinette soon tired 
of a fashion which tended to become a uniform. 
And Mile. Bertin had to foresee the moment when a 
fashion reached that degree o£ generalization which 
took away from the originality, and in consequence 
called for prompt modification. 

However, in spite of what Metra wrote on Januar}^ 
20, plumes and immense head-dresses had not gone out 
of fashion. Woman still wore such scaffoldings of 
hair and trimmings that they could only kneel in their 
carriages. " They appeared," a contemporary tells us, 
" like busy people having let fall a bracelet, which 
they were always looking for among the cushions." 
Besides being obliged to hold themselves in a 
distorted, hampered, and inconvenient manner, they 
had to leave their curtains open, in order not to 
disturb the arrangement of their ribbons, which were 
blown by the wind like flags. 

Mme. Campan says : "If the fashion of wearing 


feathers and extravagant head-dresses had been pro- 
longed, it would have brought about a revolution in 
architecture. The necessity of raising the doors and 
ceilings of the boxes at the theatre, and above all the 
roofs of carriaiJ'es, would have been felt." 

The caricaturists had no need to exaggerate ; they 
simply had to copy and paint their contemporaries as 
they saw them. Some of the feathers which went to- 
wards the making up of these immense plumes were 
three feet long ; and the madness lasted several years, 
but was at its height from 1776 to 1780. 

A ball was given on Maundy Thursday in February, 
1776, at the Palais-Royal, by the Duchessede Chartres 
in honour of the Queen, who wore such a big head- 
dress that some of it had to be taken down, because 
she could not get into her carriage without crushing 
it, and put on again when she arrived at her Palais- 

The King, a regular quiz at times, laughed at all 
these exaggerations. It happened one day, in the 
month of April of the same year, that the Queen, 
returning from the opera, and not seeming very 
pleased, the King asked her how she found it. 
^* Cold," she replied. And when he insisted on being- 
told what sort of a reception she had been given, and 
if she had had the usual cheers, she did not answer, 
the King, says Bachaumont, understanding what that 
meant, said, " Apparently, madame, you did not wear 
enough feathers." 

That was a criticism of the skill of Mile. Bertin, 


and of the continual outbidding: of her inventions. 
All the husbands apparently were of the King's 
opinion, and not only in Paris or in France, but 
even in foreign countries, where the French fashions 
were copied with energy, as is proved by a letter 
from Genoa dated May 20, 1776, which relates an 
incident in the sojourn of the Duchesse de Chartres, 
who, as a client of Rose Bertin, increased by her 
presence and example the number of her orders. 
Woman in all countries of the world, having a 
little of the monkey, only thinks well of herself when 
she has imitated, at her best, the manners and clothes 
created, as freaks, by the futile and disordered 
brains of society women and professional beauties. 
" Madame la Duchesse de Chai^tres," this letter says, 
" at first grieved all the women here who pride 
themselves on dressing as Parisians ; this Princess, 
who travels under the name of Princesse de Joinville, 
only appeared at first in a semi-large cap, which 
made the husbands rejoice, as they are the enemies 
of high head-dresses and plumes ; they represented 
to their wives that they could not do better than 
conform to the fashion of dressing their hair like 
the first Princess of the blood royal. But when the 
Princess put on her ' house of cards ' — as we 
say in familiar speech — and hoisted her plumes, 
great was the joy among women ; and the next day 
the bankers had 50,000 livres commission for getting 
feathers from France. This anecdote, so futile in 
itself, proves the foreign taste for our fashions, and 



that we are still the first in them, if we have fallen 
from our high position in politics." 

All the same, this magnificence continued to be 
the pretext for attacks from scribblers, who aimed 
more particularly at Marie-Antoinette, and whose 
work was preparing by degrees the middle class and 
the people to accept, as a deliverance, the fall of the 
monarchy which had made France the first country 
in the world, and was then crushing it with disastrous 
childishness. However, in spite of the libels and 
pamphlets which began to circulate among the people, 
the Queen had kept her prestige in the eyes of the 
great mass of the people. The Englishman William 
Wraxall, an impartial observer, said, in fact : *' In 
the summer of 1776, when I left France, Marie- 
Antoinette had reached the height of her beauty and 
her popularity." 

Comte d'Allonville tells us in his '^ Memoires 
Secret" that the Queen received only 400,000 
francs for her personal expenditure, and that was 
little enough with her taste for dress, and love of 
play which ruined her, so that the King had often 
to pay her debts from his privy purse. 

It was in this year, 1776, that Louis XVL, by 
an order dated February, suppressed the warden- 
ships, guilds of commerce, arts, and trades. This 
measure caused at first the liveliest alarm among 
people interested. Different bodies and guilds printed 
pamphlets in which they showed the disorder which 
would follow — tailors would make carriage-wheels, 

•«w «« ,^^^Jte«V^ >i« cote iicaunvojini: c)i:'i 

JIt'.<i>_ Curi'OA-ch.l 


Til face l-iAgQ Ci 


the pork-butcher would sell candles. They had 
meetings. On February 12 the Guild of Hosiery 
met in the cloister of Sain t- Jacques-la- Boncherie ; 
on the 15th the six merchant guilds met again. 
The Advocate- General Seguier, advising the re-forma- 
tion of the guilds on a new basis, said that women 
belonging to certain trade guilds should be admitted 
to the mastership, and of this number he mentioned 
hairdressers, embroiderers, and the makers of fashions. 
" This would mean," he said, "preparing an asylum 
for virtue, which is often led by want to licentiousness." 

The edict of February was followed by a fresh 
edict in August, 1776, which re-established on a 
new basis the six merchant guilds and the forty- 
four corporations of arts and trades. The fashion- 
makers and dealers in feathers were No. 18. 

Henceforth, to carry on a trade, it was necessary 
to be entered on a special register which was kept by 
the Lieutenant-General of Police, and in which was 
written, with family name and Christian name, the age 
and domicile of the person entered. If he changed 
his domicile or altered the nature of his business, he 
had to be entered afresh on the register. Finally, 
admission to the mastership cost 300 livres, but, once 
admitted, no rights could be taken from anyone 
received into the guild. 

Naturally, Mile. Bertin belonged to the reconstituted 
guild of fashion-makers, which was called " The Guild 
of Makers and Dealers in Fashions — Feather-Dealers 
and Florists of the City and Suburbs of Paris," and 


from the formation of this new guild she found herself 
invested with the functions of master, and placed for 
a year at the head of the guild, whose acting members 
were as follows : 

Masters: Marie- Jeanne Bertin, Denise TEtrier. 

Assistants: Marguerite Danican Philidor, woman 
Fortin, Madeleine Darant, woman Robbin. 

Entering into office October 1, 1776, she kept it 
until October 1, 1777. The choice that the guild 
made, of Rose Bertin for first master, was evident 
proof of her importance and of the position she held 
in Parisian trade. This first year the fees collected 
for the admittance of masters rose to 10,020 livres. 
They were 3,660 livres in 1777-78, and 2,580 livres 
in 1778-79. 

In 1776 the head-dresses and caps were just as 
varied as in 1775. One of the styles was called 
" The Rising of the Queen"; they also wore hats in 
the style of Henri IV., which were hats with turned- 
up brims trimmed after the fashion of the legendary 
white plume. This had no bearing on the 
present time, but was purely reminiscent. The 
fashion lasted for some years with others more 
ephemeral. The Queen wore one on the day when 
Joseph 11. arrived in Paris, April 18, 1777. The 
weather was fearful, rain and wdnd never ceased, and 
the carriages in which Marie- Antoinette with her 
suite crossed Paris to meet her brother were open. 
" All the Henri IV. hats," writes Bachaumont, " and 
the feathers were spoilt, ruined and broken. At this 


the Queen laughed and was immensely amused." 
Sometimes one laughs at trifles ; it was not very 
witty, but it was childish. 

Marie-Antoinette has left information on certain 
details relating to the fashions of 1776. We find it 
in a letter addressed to Maria-Theresa, June 13. 
" The same rule," she wrote, " applies to the head- 
dress for women of a certain age, as well as to the 
dresses and jewels, except the paint, which elderly 
people put on here, and the}^ are perhaps even a little 
stronger in tone than those of the younger ones. For 
the rest, after reaching forty - five years of age, one 
wears less startling colours, and the dresses are cut 
less to the figure and are not so light, and 
the hair is not so curly nor the head-dress so 

On February 17 the Queen went with Madame and 
the Princesse de Lamballe to the Com^die Fran<}aivse, 
where they saw the first performance of " Oredan," a 
tragedy by Fontanelle, the author of the "Life of 
Aretino," and a piece called " La Vestale," the per- 
formance of which was forbidden in 1768. " The 
Queen was not in full dress, with no diamonds or 
paint," Hardy says, "and looked in this garb quite 
pleasant and middle-class." This goes to pz^ove that 
Mile. Bertin could invent a style which was not 
eccentric. Marie- Antoinette's taste for eleo^ance did 
not detract from her influence. If this Queen had 
dreamed for one moment of ruling, i£ she had had 
any of the love of Catherine de Medici or Anne of 


Austria for governing, she could easily have satisfied 
her taste, 

"The Queen is more powerful than ever, although 
she seems to pay attention only to amusement and 
jewels," wrote the librarian Hardy. But she did not 
think much of authority. In the same way, they say, 
she did not like playing cards. " If the Queen did 
not like gambling, why did she play ?" answered the 
Comtesse de Boigne. *' Ah, she had quite a different 
passion : it was the passion of fashion. She dressed 
to be in the fashion, she made debts to be in the 
fashion, she played to be in the fashion, she was 
intellectual to be in the fashion. To be the prettiest 
woman in the fashion seemed to her very desirable ; 
and this eccentricity, unworthy of a great Queen, was 
the only cause of the wrongs which have been so 
cruelly exaggerated." 

With such a mind, one can understand the empire 
which a woman like Mile. Bertin could exercise over 

When she was the Dauphine, Maria- Theresa wrote 
to Mercy : " Inclined as she is to spending money, 
she may go too far." There was then only an allow- 
ance of 92,000 livres at her disposal, and she only 
disposed of a quarter of this amount, the rest " being 
averted by those who managed for her." But since 
then the sum placed at her disposal had been con- 
siderably increased, and Rose Bertin could freely 
exploit this desire to be the most fashionable woman 
which Mme. de Boigne speaks of, and this taste for 


spending remarked upon by Maria- Theresa. In 1707 
Mercy wrote : " Her Royal Majesty is not dressed to 
advantage, but the fault is entirely due to her Lady 
of the Bedchamber, who does not thoroughly under- 
stand it, and who brings but little attention to bear 
on the subject." This Lady of the Bedchamber, the 
Duchesse de Villars, died September 15, 1771, and 
was replaced by the Duchesse de Cosse. Everything 
was changed : Rose Bertin became the regular 
milliner, and the chrysalis became a butterfly very 

Rose Bertin in 1777 reckoned the Prince de Gu^m^ne 
among her clients. The Prince and Princess were 
far from forming an ideal household. The Princess 
had an open liaison with the Due de Coigny. The 
Prince on his side had another not less open, with 
Mme. Dillon, for whom he felt a real passion which 
ended only with his life. He endeavoured to make 
himself agreeable to the beautiful Mme. Dillon, and in 
order to court the mother he could think of nothing 
better than to spoil her daughter by ordering from 
Mile. Bertin, for New Year's Day 1777, a wonderful 
doll with a complete trousseau, of which we have a 
full description in Mile. Bertin's own books : "It 
was a big doll with springs, with a well-made foot 
and a very good wig ; a fine linen chemise and lace 
cuffs ; a pair of silk stocking with puce -coloured 
clocks ; a pair of pink satin shoes edged with puce 
ribbon, and high heels ; a petticoat trimmed with fine 
muslin embroidery ; a long and well-boned corset ; 


a bodice of white taffetas quilted inside and out ; a 
ball dress ; a skirt of pink taffetas, a flounce all 
round of striped gauze, with chicory made of crape, 
and folds of pink taffetas for the head ; a second 
skirt of striped brocaded gauze, looped up, and fastened 
with bows of pink and puce-coloured ribbon ; bodice 
trimmings, the sleeves fastened with ribbon ; a collar 
and a front of blond lace ; a gauze apron trimmed with 
crape ; a Turkish cap ; a satin drapery ; foundation 
of Italian gauze ; stripes of pink ribbon bordered with 
black velvet ; a black heron and a plume ; a collarette 
made of lace in two rows, with a little branch of roses 
for a bouquet." The whole cost 300 livres. It was 
a very fine doll. Alas ! some years later the Prince 
was declared bankrupt. He owed money on all sides, 
and the beautiful doll had not been paid for — and 
never was. 

On the other hand, the Princess, who was dressed 
by Mile. Bertin, did not pay her debts either. The 
milliner lost more than 11,000 livres by the Prince, 
and more than 8,000 livres by the Princess. The 
great nobles then lived grandly, spending without count- 
ing, ordering and not paying, counting neither their 
debts nor their expenses. So Rose lost 11,000 livres 
by the Princesse de Montbazon, who was a daughter 
of the Princesse de Gudm^n^, and who had married 
the Prince de Rohan-Rochefort. The year 1777 began 
with a brilliant affair for Mile. Bertin. The hereditary 
Prince of Portugal, Joseph Francois Xavier, Prince oi 
Brazil, born August 21, 1761, inarried, February, 1777, 


the Princess Marie-Franqoise-Benedictine, the sister 
of his mother, born July 25, 1746. On this occasion 
M. de Souza, Portuguese Ambassador at the Court of 
France, mentioned the name of Rose Bertin, and 
obtained for her the order for the trousseau of the 
Princess, which represented a supply of 400,000 livres. 

By way of compensation, she became the victim of 
roguery on the part of a certain Lady de Cahouet de 
Villers. Victoire Wallard, wife of Pierre-Louis-Rene 
Cahouet de Villers, General Treasurer of the Kino's 
Household, was twenty-eight years old. A notorious 
friend of Mme. Du Barry, she was " a gay and giddy 
woman," who twice imitated the handwriting and 
signature of the Queen at Mile. Bertin's expense. The 
first time " Mme. Cahouet wrote a note to which she 
placed the signature ' Marie- Antoinette.' Li this note 
she asked for a supply of things for her toilette. Mile. 
Bertin was deceived by it. The Queen was informed 
of the use which had been made of her name : the 
Lady Cahouet got off with a reprimand and a pardon. 
The Queen would not allow the guilty party to suffer 
any other vengeance." 

Marie-Antoinette, naturally, in forgiving the un- 
fortunate woman who had used her name, could only 
indemnify the milliner, who actually lost nothing. 
The imprudent forger, with true audacity, did not 
stop there : ^' She wrote a second note to Mile. Bertin. 
The writing and the signature of the Queen were 
again copied. This new crime was not allowed to 
remain secret, but they did not tell the Queen, who 


would perhaps have forgiven her. M. de Maurepas, 
who was informed, sent the lady to the Bastille. She 
was lodged in the Comte Tower." Her incarceration 
took place March 13, 1777, as well as that of her 
husband, who was released August 21 ; the inquiry 
showed that he had nothing to do with his wife's 

But the young woman, born for pleasure, was not 
long in falling into a state of languor and decline. 
?Ier husband refused to help her. For a long time he 
would not allow anyone to speak to him of a woman 
who had compromised him and exposed him to the 
danger of losing his position. After twenty months, 
her health getting worse and worse, they sent her 
from the Bastille to a convent in the Faubourg Saint- 
Antoine. This was the Convent of the Cross. She 
entered it under the name of Mme. de Noyan. She 
went from there to the Community of the Daughters 
of St. Thomas, and died soon after. " That Bastille,^' 
she often said, " has killed me." 

It also became known that, by means of a letter in 
which she imitated the signature of Marie- Antoinette, 
she had cheated the treasurer of the Due d' Orleans 
out of 100,000 cro\sms ] that was the jmncipal reason 
of her arrest. However, feathers were still in 
fashion, and caricaturists went on to their hearts' 
content. The year 1777 saw the arrival of a new 
fashion — the Gabrielle de Vergy cap — so called in 
honour of the success of a tragedy written by de Belloy, 
and played July 12, at the Comedie Fran^aise. 


Inspired by tlie play, the feathers inspired authors in 
their turn. A writer hitherto unknown wrote a 
comedy which appeared in 1778, under the title of 
" The Plumes," with the plan of founding an academy 
of fashion ; it is only a satire of the deplorable 
taste of the period, where, under borrowed names, 
well-known milliners figured. Here are some 
extracts : 

" Mme. Duppefort. — The Countess of Cavecreuse 
desires that you should supply her with a trimming 
of the garden of the Palais- Royal with the lake, the 
shape of the houses, and above all with the long 
avenue and the iron gate and the caf^. 

" M. Duppefort. — Really ! Someone will soon want 
the Tuileries, the Luxemburg, the Boulevard ; the 
market-garden women will want the Place Royale or 
the Hotel Soubise. 

" Mme, Duppefort. — That tail thin Marquise has 
been here again ; they call her Mme. de la Braise. 
It is three months since her husband died. She 
wants you to put a raised platform for a coffin on her 
trimming. She is no longer in quite deep mourning. 
I do not know whether she wishes to express her joy 
or her grief. 

" M. Duppefort. — Yes, we can arrange some little 
Cupids gaily round a coffin, with hymeneal or funeral 
torches. There is no subject which cannot be made 
bright by a little wit. . . . 

"Mme. Duppefort. — Mademoiselle Dubois-Commun 
has been again ; she wishes to give us some wonder- 


ful ideas, which have come to her in deep meditation. 
She has captivated an Englishman, who worships 
astronomy, and she wishes to wear on her head the 
sun, moon, and planets, the Pleiads and the Milky 
Way. She would like these stars to be moving, and 5 
above all, you must have several comets, some with 
tails and some with manes, because her Englishman 
has given her the diamonds to mount them. ... I 
forgot to tell you that Mile. Fortendos has a lover 
who is mad on hunting. In her desire to make 
him a present, she would like to have a rich set which 
would represent the Bois de Boulogne or the Bois de 
Yincennes. The forest must be full of animals of all 
sorts. She has enough fur to make them, and you 
have only to supply the flying ones. But she wants 
a whole menagerie for St. Hubert's Day, when she is 
going with a large party to hunt the wild- boar." 

Farther on there is a scene which is manifestly 
inspired by incidents which happened at Rose 
Bertin's, and of which we have already spoken : 

*' DuppEFORT. — Montenlair ! 

" Montenlair. — Here, sir 1 

" DupPEFORT. — Put into a trunk all the caps of three 
weeks ago, and make a consignment for Bordeaux, 
addressed to Mme. Chiffonet (Disorder). With 
regard to those a fortnight old, address them 
to Mile, de la Singerie (Monkey-tricks) at Lyons ; 
those of last week send to Lille, Rouen, Soissons, and 
to anywhere within a radius of thirty miles ; and those 
three days old we will not show until the day after 

BU'liothiqt"' Nat lo dale 


Til face page Ti> 


to-morrow. When you have finished, go and try to get 
some money from my customers. Nobody pays !" 

And that was only too true. They ordered any 
novelty, but the tradespeople could not get paid. 
Bankruptcies were numerous in the trades which 
supplied luxuries to the Parisians. People of com- 
mon sense bitterly deplored this excess of petty 
display. Some even feared consequences more fatal 
than the mere waste of money, or even a whole series 
of bankruptcies. The Author of the '* Analectes," 
whom one believes to have been the advocate of the 
Cross, although he denied it, wrote in 1777 : 

" We think we ought to point out the astonishing 
change which our century has seen in general 
manners as the effect of luxury, which makes the 
thought of Horace applicable to us.* This love of 
luxury which fills our towns with valets, drapers, 
jewellers, goldsmiths, looking-glass-makers, perfumers, 
tailors, fashion-mongers, bathing-house-keepers, wig- 
makers, a whole heap of professions, the names of 
which alone would fill a book, which spreads even to 
the country districtvS — this crowd of mercers who carry 
contagion into the rural districts is proper to the 
eighteenth century, and has brouglit forth a kumrij 
of imitation which seems to have become throughout 
Europe, the fashion." Metternich, in a letter of 
January 27, 1779, also criticized the times : 


" Aetos parentum, pejor avis tulit 
Nos nequiores, mox daturos 
Progeniem vitiosiorem. 


" When some novelty comes over the sea or from 
America, be it cheap or unbecoming, everyone pays 
attention to it for a moment, and forgets it at once 
to take a more lively interest in an opera, to start a 
new fashion . . . All this touches our Parisian 
Coui't and people very closely ;" and he draws a con- 
clusion that this indifference seems to him a bad sign 
for the future. 

That was very true. The future took care to 
prove it. 

Joseph 11. also criticized his sister sometimes 
about her jewels. One day when he was travelling 
under the name of Count of Falkenstein, and found 
himself at Versailles, Marie- Antoinette appeared in a 
superb and charming dress. " This stuff must have 
cost much," said Joseph II. to her. " No, brother, 
since families live by it," answered the Queen. " If 
I only chose simple dresses, two hundred trading 
houses would close their workshops to-morrow." 
This might be quite true, for in those days artists 
themselves collaborated with the milliners for the 
good of trade, and it was in 1777 that the most 
wonderful collection of fashion engravings that has 
ever been published appeared. It was due to the 
talent of the younger Moreau, a well-known artist, 
and was quite remarkable. It was called " A Series 
of Prints with Text to illustrate the French Costume." 
And this work was really very important, as throwing 
light on the luminous systems of Mile. Bertin and 
Sieur Beaulard. 


The year 1777 brought Rose Bertin an unexpected 
customer — a customer whose personality equally 
puzzled his contemporaries and posterity, and who was 
no other than the Knight, alias the Lady, of Eon. In 
consequence o£ disputes which the Chevalier d'Eon 
had had in London with the French Ambassador, the 
Comte de Guerchy, to whom the English Courts 
had not given satisfaction, the *' Charge d'AfFaires " of 
King Louis XV. had an irreconcilable enemy in the 
Ambassador. When he died, his son inherited his 
hatred for the Chevalier d'Eon, so that after the 
death of Louis XV., when d'Eon wished to return to 
France, the younger de Guerchy declared that he 
would challenge him to fight to the death for having 
treated his father so impudently. The Coratesse 
de Guerchy was afraid ; the Chevalier d'Eon had 
the reputation of being a remarkable fencer. She 
went to the King and begged him to intervene to 
save her from the misery she dreaded. 

Louis XVI. did intervene, and, using Beaumarchais 
as an intermediary, made d'Eon sign a paper by 
which he undertook to wear only woman's clothes 
when he returned to France, and to acknowledge 
that they were the only clothes fit for him, and 
which, for some reason which cannot be explained, 
he had worn some years before at the Russian 

D'Eon left London August 13, 1777, and arrived 
at Versailles on the 17th. He still wore his uni- 
form as a Captain of Dragoons. M. de Vergennes, 


meeting him on the 27th of the same month, handed 
him the following peremptory order : 

" By Order of the Kmg. 

" Charles Genevieve Louise Auguste Andre- 
Thimoth(3e d'Eon de Beaumont ivS commanded to 
leave off the dragoon uniform he has been accustomed 
to wear, and to wear again the dress of his sex ; he 
must not appear in the kingdom in any dress not 
proper to women. 

"(Signed) Louis. 
"(Countersigned) Gravier de Vergennes." 

The Knight maintained that he had not the 
necessary funds to get a proper trousseau, and 
Marie-Antoinette interposed — " I will undertake his 
trousseau " — and immediately sent him a fan with a 
sum of 24,000 livres. " Tell him," she said to the 
messenger she sent with this present, " that to replace 
his sword I arm him with a fan, and I make him 
a lady." 

D'Eon went to Rose Bertin, to whom the Queen 
had sent him. He was at once on the best terms 
with the famous woman, and wrote a letter to 
M. de Vergennes which bears the date August 29, 
1777 : 

" Sir, 

" In order to obey the King's orders, which 
you communicated to me, as well as the Count of 


Maurepas, I have put off my journey to Burgundy. 
I could not possibly present myself at Versailles 
with the few woman's clothes I had left. I 
had to have new ones. Mile. Bertin, in the Queen's 
service, will have the honour to tell you to-morrow 
that she has undertaken, not only to make them 
during my absence, but to make a passably modest 
and obedient girl of me. As to prudence, which is 
just as necessary in a girl as courage is in a Captain 
of dragoons, Heaven and necessity in the manifold 
habits of my life so cruelly agitated have given me 
visible habits which cost me nothing. It will be a 
hundred times more easy to be modest and obedient. 
After Heaven, the King and his Ministers, Mile. 
Bertin will have the most merit in my miraculous 

" I am, sir, with profound respect, your very 
humble and obedient servant, 

" The Chevalier d'Eon 

for a short while still." 

The Knight, as is seen, got on well with the 
milliner from the first ; and it is written in the 
'' Memoires Secret," under the date of September 7, 
1777 : "Two dresses are being trimmed for him by 
Mile. Bertin, the Queen's dressmaker, and he 
has already had supper with her, once as a man and 
once dressed as a woman. In woman's dress he is 
very clumsy. Whatever may come of it, everything 



seems to prove that his real name is the only feminine 
thing about him." 

The author of the forged " M^moires de Leonard," 
who spied into all the stories and memoirs of the 
time, to find any anecdotes, relates the fact, altering it 
to suit his purpose, and mixing his personality in it. 
His want of authenticity is proved in this business ; 
for the hairdresser-wigmaker who was ordered to 
supply a wig " in three stories *' was not the celebrated 
Leonard, but another hairdresser not so well known, 
M. Brunet, who plied his trade at Yersailles, where 
he lived in the Rue de la Paroisse. Anyhow, the 
author of the memoirs makes the story about the 
reception of the Chevalier d'Eon by the Queen's 
dressmaker very amusing : 

''In the last davs of August Mile. Bertin invited 
me to sup with her on the morrow, warning me that 
I should find another guest. I went on the following 
day, and found there in fact a dragoon officer, ugly 
enough in the face, but well made, and whose con- 
versation, so easy and brilliant, showed him to be a 
man of great merit. ... I believed that the 
dragoon had asked the dressmaker for her hand, 
and that she was inclined to allow herself to be led 
to the altar. Several times in the scraps of con 
versation while the servants were waiting at table I 
asked her why the gentleman was there. Mile. 
Bertin, answering my question by another, asked me 
why I said that. I answered stupidly: 'Nothing.' 
Then the mysterious dressmaker said : * To-morrow, 


M. Leonard, you will understand the enigma. I 
shall expect you to supper/ The following day I 
went to Mile. Bertin's. This time the captain of 
dragoons was not the guest, but a large, fat, ugly 
lady, who nevertheless was very like the officer. 
So said I to myself : ' This is the mother of the future 

" ' Well, M. Leonard,' said Mile. Bertin, smiling, 
' will you not tell me the reason of your pre- 
occupation ?' 

" ' I prevsume, mademoiselle, that you perhaps 
suspect it.' 

" * Doubtless ; but, my friend, for a man at Court 
you know but little, if you do not know that last 
Thursday the Chevalier d'Eon was presented to the 
King, and I have been obliged by the King's order 
to make a woman of him — at least, in his dress. 
When yesterday morning, in walking through my 
shop, you asked me for whom were the dresses that 
my girls were trimming with so much skill, I could 
have answered, '* For a captain of dragoons"; and 
the lady has just put on for the first time the clothes, 
of her sex.' " 

There is certainly some imagination in this story, 
and one inexactitude— the Chevalier had not been 
presented to the King ; but it is a fact that he had 
accepted the dressmaker's invitations, whose conversa- 
tion he seemed to enjoy, without attaching any further 
importance to the story. This man was not of 
the stuff that Don Juans are made of, and he 


had adventures which certainly he was the last to 

But if he was satisfied with the dressmaker, he 
certainly was not satisfied to be obliged to accept 
her offices, and not pleased to wear feminine clothes 
which Rose's girls made so hurriedly for him. *' It 
is mourning that I am going to wear, and not 
clothes for a feast," he wrote to the Comte de Ver- 
gennes. " I will give myself up to misfortune," he 
said, '' but not to ridicule." 

He left Paris, and went to spend some time at 
Tonnerre, where his old mother lived, and where he 
arrived September 2, and stayed six weeks. During 
this time Mme. Barmant boned stays for him, and 
Rose Bertin superintended the making of his costume. 
But as he was long in returning, she told him that 
his presence was indispensable for trying on, and he 
decided to return to Versailles. That was, as he 
wrote in the papers which have been preserved, 
October 22, 1777, that he ''put on his robe of 
innocence to appear at Versailles, as he had been 
ordered by the King and his Ministers " a week after 
his return from Burgundy. The dress he wore was 
a black dress, " a mourning robe," as he wrote to the 
Comte de Vergennes, and as the editor of the English 
Spy agrees : " She was dressed in black, as a widow 
of the secret of Louis XV. . . . Her throat was 
covered up to her chin, so that no one should remark 
on it. 

It was on November 23 that he appeared at 


Versailles. He did not easily accustom himself to 
the new costume, as a letter to his old Colonel, 
Marquis d'Autichamp, proves : '' The loss of my 
leathern breeches is o^rievous to me. Never will silk 
skirt or gold or silver thread, although made by 
Mile. Bertin, console me." Mile. Bertin, however, did 
not remain the regular costumier of the Chevalier, 
who, with rather a modest income, found it better 
to employ a person with more reasonable prices, 
known as Antoinette Maillot, whose address in 
Rue Saint Paul, Paris, was given to him by the 
wife of one of his old friends, M. Falconnet, a 

D'Eon, who was not elegant, preferred low prices 
to the reputation of the Queen's great dressmaker. 
He only followed the fashions at a distance ; he was 
not the person to change his dress perpetually, and 
new inventions interested him but little. At the end 
of 1777 the hair was dressed in the fashion called 
*^ The Insurgents." " It was," says the author of the 
" Memoires Secret," '* an allegory, made up of the 
disturbances between England and America. The 
first was a snake, so perfectly imitated that in a 
committee meeting held at the house of Mme. la 
Marquise de Narbonne, Lady of the Bedchamber to 
Mme. Adelaide, it was decided not to adopt this 
ornament, as it was likely to upset people's nerves. 
The maker then decided to sell it to foreigners only, 
who were anxious to obtain our novelties ; it had 
been proposed to advertise it in the papers, but the 


Government, prudent and circumspect, forbade it. 
Crowds went to see it out of curiosity." 

Caps a la Hedgehog were also made. Rose Bertin 
sent one to Stockholm, to the address of Desland, 
valet, and hairdresser to the Queen of Sweden. It 
cost 72 livres. 



Rose Bertin continued to enjoy the Queen's confidence, 
and worked in her rooms sometimes for two or three 
hours at a stretch. And Marie- Antoinette's confidence 
was a better advertisement for her than the dolls 
dressed in the newest fashions which she sent out to 
foreign cities. "Who loves me follows me, and rallies 
round my white plume," remains still the best of 
politics — as many women have understood. That is 
why Mme. Du Barry at the end of her reign — that is to 
say, during the last years of the reign of Louis XV. 
— dealt with Mile. Pagelle, former employer of Rose 
Bertin, and whose last papers, draw^n up by M. de 
Beaujon by the King's order, ended with the figure of 
23,777 livres 19s. 6d. for a period of seven months 
from October 1, 1773, to May 27, 1774. That is why 
Mme. Du Barry, having been dressed for some time by 
Beaulard, turns to the Queen's dressmaker. 

There is still in the Bibliotheque Nationale, as 
well as in the Biblioth^ue de Versailles, a series 
of oflicial returns drawn up by the Maison Bertin for 



the favourite's account. They begin on February 4, 
177(S, and go on to 1792. Mme. Du Barry was a 
faithful customer. 

However, although the first of the papers bears the 
date February 4, 1778, it is probable that Mme. 
Du Barry was dressed by Rose Bertin as soon as she 
was allowed to return to Paris, Mme. Du Barry had 
been exiled to Pont-aux-Dames fi:om May 10, 1774, to 
March 25, 1775 ; then she withdrew to Saint- Vrain, 
near Monthlery, and it was in October, 1776, that she 
was permitted to return to Paris. It is then evident 
that Mme. Du Barry found it well to seek the favour 
of Rose Bertin, whom everyone knew to be on such 
good terms with the Queen. In a note of things 
supplied by Le Normand et Cie. of Paris to Mme. Du 
Barry under the date of 1777 we read: 

Sent to Mlle. Bertin. 

Oct. 15. 16i ells of Indian material, straw- 
coloured, striped with white satin ... ... 165 livres. 

Oct. 16. 2 ells of Genoa velvet, sky blue, 64 livres^ 
1 ell of English green Italian taffetas, at 
9 livres ... ... ... 9 livres, 

Oct. 25. 22 ells English mauve satin, tinted^ 
with white and green, very strong, at 
14 livres ... ... ... ... 308 livres 

18 ells nut-coloured satin, English, very 
strong, at 15 livres ... ... 252 livres 

18 ells of blue English satin, at 14 
livres ... ... 252 livres^ 

And farther on, on the same memorandum, we find the 
following curious entry : 

73 livres. 

812 Hvres. 

( <i.r,iii t'lhj 


Tn f;iLO pMyu ^s 



For Present to Mlle. Bertin. 
Dec. 19. 20 ells of mauve satin at 14 livres 

280 livres I ciot:: i- 

} 385 livres. 

14 ells of white taffetas, at 8.15 livres 

105 livres. 

Sent to Mlle. Bertin. 
10 ells of strong white satin, at 13 livres ... 130 livres. 

So Mme. Du Barry paid by little presents for the 
favours of the great dressmaker. The visits she paid 
to the Rue Saint-Honore made her feel young again, 
taking her back to her early days, to the time when, 
before she had gained the favour of a King by a life 
of adventure, she was a simple employee in the firm 
of a dressmaker of the period. 

The bills presented by Rose Bertin to Mme. Du 
Barry in the years which followed, according to the 
entries which we still possess, amount to the following 
sums : 

Livres. s. 

From February 4, 1778 to October 24, 1779 ... 11,438 9 

To the end of 1779 

231 5 

For the year 1780 

3,211 11 


2,386 6 


. 6,598 2 


7,840 10 


. 8,519 1 


7,756 10 


. 6,912 10 


7,011 10 


. 8,034 12 


. 5,370 4 


. 1,264 8 


2,354 16 


713 6 


Rose Bertin did not have a bad customer in Mme. 
Du Barry. We find, in fact, in a memoradum of the 
things supplied by Le Normand et Cie. of Paris to 
the Countess, the following entry: 

Paid to Mile. Bertin, according to the acknow- 
ledgment of Mme. la Comtesse, from 
March 24, 1779 9,837 livres. 

This goes to prove that the memorandum beginning 
February 4, 1778, was not the first debt contracted by 
Du Barry with the dressmaker of the Rue Saint- 
Honore. At the head of the memorandum is written ; 

Supplied to the Countess Du Barry by Bertin, " of the 

Great Mogul." 

Livres. s. 

Deferred, a memorandum beginning February 4, 

1778, and ending October 24, 1779— total = 11,438 9 
Received on account, April 12, 1779 5,837 6 

Balance due ... ... ... 5,601 3 

It is very evident that the 9,837 livres paid by the 
agency of Le Normand et Cie. have nothing to do 
with this memorandum. 

In glancing through these notes, it will not be 
uninteresting to notice some of the articles which 
are designated therein, and which will give us the 
price-list, as it were, of the first dressmaker of the 

First of all we find, on October 25, 1779, a large 
hat of white straw, with brim turned up on both 
sides and bound with blue and white fluted ribbon 


spotted with black, a large plume of black and white 
feathers supplied by the Countess herself, 24 livres. 
That is really not very dear ; what do our society 
ladies think ? 

On December 25, 1779, a large cloak of two 
taffetas, white half- sarcenet, a trimming of striped 
English gauze, brocaded in chenille, 42 livres. 
Things had not yet become a madness. 

On January 5, 1780, a large hat of white straw, 
turned up with nut coloured ribbon, a bow of the 
same spotted ribbon, a plume of seven fine white 
feathers with fine aigrette in the middle, 120 livres. 
Here the price has gone up, but the feathers and the 
aigrette had to be found. It is also remarkable that 
the hat was straw, and supplied in the depth of 
winter. The milliner also supplied toilette accessories. 
On February 2, 1780, she sent, for a " head-band," 
one ell and a half of wide pink and white spotted 
satin ribbon at 3 livres for 4.10 livres, which almost 
shows us Du Barry e7i deshabille. 

At the same date she supplied for a sword bow two 
ells and a half of wide English ribbon, mauve and 
white spotted with black, at 2 livres = 5 livres. 

And among details of a present made to Mme. 
la Vicomtesse Du Barry are the following articles : 

A very large branch of cotton lilac with three 
sprays, 36 livres. 

A head-dress trimmed with crape and spotted with 
puce velvet, two rows of pleats of fine silk lace, high 
with straight border and ribbon behind, 72 livres. 


A cap trimmed with fine blond and Italian gauze, 
a butterfly with large wings, long feathers, bordered 
with blonde lace falling behind, and white ribbon, 
48 livres. 

The relatively low price asked for '' a large cloak 
of black taflfetas, lined and trimmed with wide lace 
on spotted tulle with straight edge," is astonish- 
ing. This Avas delivered December 6, 1780, and cost 
192 livres. Also English straw hats sold June 30, 
1781, at 8 livres each. 

But here is the description of a costume delivered 
January 20, 1782, and the price of which is very much 
higher, we find in the first memorandum kept in the 
Bibliotheque Nationale : 

" The trimming of a blue and silver dress, large 
puffed pleats all down the front in Italian gauze, 
edged with big ruchings of cut crape, a garland of 
silver rope placed over the puffs, each separated by 
bunches of golden wheat-ears, and fastenings, in cat- 
kins of blue stones mixed with white pearls, placed 
each side of the drapery ; the fi'ont of the petticoat 
entirely covered with Italian gauze, a large flounce at 
the bottom, a foundation of silver lined with plain 
crape and edged with fringe, a large garland of gold 
corn-ears placed over the flounce in shape of shells 
tied by silver ropes, and by a double acorn of gold 
and silver, the heads set in stones ; trimmed with 
firinge cuffs, 900 livres. 

'^ A flounce of pleated blonde, 8 livres. 


*' A piece of five bands of catkins in blue stones 
mixed with white pearls, 78 livres. 

*' An ornament of three bows in crape, edged with 
blonde lace, two doable blades of gold at the edge, 
and a gold braid in the middle and embroidered with 
stones and sequins. 

"A flounce in the Provencal fashion, a fine blonde 
very wide, on Alen^on lace with shells, a fine lining 
of pleated Alenqon above, 84 livres. 

'' A collar of fine blonde lace with straight edge, 
and a fine plain tulle pleated underneath, 24 livres." 

That was what may be called an important order. 
But Du Barry also economically made use of 
dresses already worn, which she had altered, and 
we read in Mile. Bertin's notes : '* For mending- 
two hats, flowers, and plume, furnished the straw 
and white satin ribbon and velvet, 15 livres — 
December 7, 1782." 

Independently of anything she paid for with ready 
money in the milliner's shops, some things, entered 
wrongly on the bills presented to the Countess, bear 
these words in the margin, " Nothing," or *' Sold " 
— for example, a supply of goods for 733 livres of 
August 27, 1787, was annotated in this manner, 
" All these things have been sold/' and a hat of 
144 livres ''sold," February 20, 1788. Independently, 
we say, of these things and of former deliveries, the 
account of Mme. Du Barry with Rose Bertin from 
February 4, 1778, to September 12, 1792, deduction 
on the account of 5,837 livres Gs. paid on April 12, 



1779, rose to 73,605 livres 4s., as proved by the entry 
of payments preserved in the Bibliotheque de Versailles. 
Here is a copy of what Mme. la Comtesse Du Barry 
owes to Bertin, merchant : 

Livres. 3. 

Memorandum up to February 26, 1782 

. 13,148 9 

July 19, 1784 

.. 18,835 19 

March 1% 1790 . 

« « . 

. 37,797 

„ „ September 12, 1792 

.. 3,823 16 

73,605 4 


Received by M. Buffault 

1,300 \ 

May 2, 1782 


February 4, 1785, in Bochmer^s notes 


December 18, 1786 ... 


^33,300 livres. 

February 5, 1789 


May 30, 1789 


May 17, 1792 


It seems that Rose Bertin was not able to clear off 
her account with the celebrated Countess, and the 
Revolution following, the knife of the guillotine 
which took the head of her customer cost her 40,000 
francs, and besides the payments mentioned above 
we find no proofs of any other payments made by 
Mme. Du Barry. 

But it is interesting to acknowledge that we find 
no trace of this credit among the papers arranged 
after the death of Rose Bertin by Grangeret, the 
lawyer to her heirs, whose collection of unpaid 
accounts in the possession of M. J. Doucet has 
been placed courteously at our disposition. It is, 
then, likely that Rose Bertin in her lifetime was 



To face page 'J4 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 95 

able to recover the balance of 40,305 livres, or that 
her heirs were able to recover it, and that then the 
papers concerning Mme. Du Barry were suppressed 
after payment by the lawyer prosecuting. 

We wished to give an idea of the expenditure 
of Mme. Du Barry in the years succeeding her 
splendour, after the death of Louis XV. had rung 
the hour o£ her downfall. We will now take up our 
subject where we left it — that is to say, in the year 

The sea-victories of 1778 and 1779 caused the 
head-dresses to be called Boston, Philadelphia, Grenada, 
d'Estaing, and Belle-Poule. The fight in which this 
ship distinguished herself under the command of 
Chaudeau de la Clochetterie was on June 17. There 
were Te Deums^ feasts, a most extraordinary enthu- 
siasm, above all, at the taking of Grenada on July 4, 
1779. The fashions changed incessantly ; that was 
the feature of the eighteenth century. La Bruyere 
wrote : " One fashion no sooner destroys another 
fashion than it is abolished by a newer one, which in 
turn gives place to one which will not be the last ; 
such is our frivolity." One of the most elegant o£ 
the Queen's head-dresses was the one called " The 
Queen." This head-dress, which did not attain the 
exaggerated dimensions o£ so many others, and which 
suited the figure and carriage of the Queen admirably, 
has been drawn by Le Clerc, engraved by Patas for 
the '* Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Fran^ais," 
drawn from nature, published in Paris, 1778, and 


represented tlie Queen herself. It is composed of an 
ostrich feather with an aigrette of diamonds placed on 
the left side of the head, a cerise satin ribbon in the 
hair, with a pearl ornament falling as a drop on the 

This same work contains also a print engraved by 
Dupin after the drawing by Le Clerc, and represent- 
ing a " dressmaker carrying goods to the town." 
Although the garb which the picture shows us was 
certainly not worn by Rose Bertin at the period of 
her wealth, it will not be uninteresting, perhaps, after 
having spoken of the head-dresses she designed for 
her customers, to describe the costume of the work- 
girls who frequented the workshops in the early 
days of Louis XYL, of whom she employed about 
thirty — a costume which probably did not differ much 
from that which she had worn herself a few years 
before, at the time she worked for Mile. Pagelle. 
We will borrow the description from the " Gallerie 
des Modes " : 

" A large hood of black taffetas with brim turned 
back, trimmed with gauze, covers her head, and hides 
a part of her charms from the greedy eyes of passers- 
by ; but her cloak is arranged to show her figure to 
the best advantage. She is clad in a simple dress 
trimmed with the same material, of which the flounce 
is also made, and lifted up behind in the shape of a 
polonaise. Open-work silk mittens, showing the 
bracelet ; gi*een paper fan ; ' content ' in her bosom : 
the little goose wants nothing." " Content " was 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 97 

a little trimming after the manner of a collar which 
finished off the top of the bodice. This amusing 
definition gives some idea of what distinguished the 
milliner in the eighteenth century. But Rose Bertin 
having become celebrated was certainly not dressed in 
such a modest fashion. They say that when she was at 
the height of her celebrity the Comte d'Artois, after- 
wards Charles X., looked with favour on the Queen's 
milliner ; he is also said to have courted her slightly, 
but without success. After her adventure with the 
Due de Chartres, it is not astonishing that the 
haughty milliner sent the Comte d'Artois back to 
his stables. However, this succession of Princes of 
the blood all interested in the beauty of Rose Bertin 
permits us to believe that, perhaps for a kind word 
spoken one day by the Prince who had easy manners, 
Rose boasted more than she ought. There are so 
many ways of cultivating the little flower of vanity. 

In any case she was at the height of her influence 
and reputation at the Court, and she was careful to 
compromise neither, which were certain to satisfy the 
passing fancy of the Princess, whose conquests did 
not pass for virtue. She knew the value of her 
credit. Speculating on the influenoe which she had 
with the Queen, it often happened that people 
addressed the milliner to beg her ta place the favour 
desired before the Queen ; and she agreed willingly, 
very happy, in reality, to be thought important. 

In 1778 Marie- Antoinette, expecting her confine- 
ment, ordered a kind of loose dress called " Levite." 



This dress in the time of Louis XV. hung in the same 
way as a dressing-gown, and was cut short halfway 
down the leg, and this fashion was modified to suit 
the Queen's figure. The skirt was lengthened, and 
a belt was formed by a draped scarf. 

Rose Bertin was able to get a sensation of satis- 
faction from the feeling of authority she had acquired 
over the Queen. She had long and frequent con- 
versations with the Queen, who gladly consulted her, 
and confided in her even in matters quite foreign 
to dress. Marie-Antoinette awaited her confinement 
with apprehension, and told her fears to Mile. Bertin, 
w^ho informed her that in the neighbourhood of Abbe- 
ville was a miraculous statue of the Virgin, which 
enjoyed a great reputation and attracted a great 
crowd of people to the Chapel of Monflieres, that 
numerous pilgrimages came from all parts to implore 
her protection, and that many sick people were cured 
at the foot of the altar. 

'' Certain documents," wrote the Abbe Mille, 
''affirm that from the year 1559 a pilgrimage went 
to Monflieres on the Sunday preceding the Assump- 
tion, to fulfil a vow made in consequence of the 
cessation of a plague which had killed 4,000 persons 
in the town of Abbeville, and 8,000 in the surround- 
ing country ; this pilgrimage was conducted by a 
confraternity established in honour of Notre Dame de 
Monflieres under the title of the Confi^aternity of 
King David's Quarter, and which continued to exist 
until after the death of Louis XVL, as the last 

LA GKANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 99 
report of the confraternity, dated August 11, 1793, 


Rose Bertin persuaded Marie - Antoinette to 
recommend herself to the good Virgin of Monflieres, 
and succeeded so well in convincing her that she 
was charged by the Queen to go herself to carry an 
offering of a robe of gold brocade to the Madonna. 
This was a delightful journey for Rose, this return 
to Picardy, which she had left with so much goodwill 
and courage and uncertainty fifteen years ago. 

The office where places could be booked for the 
coach was at Huet's, Rue Saint-Denis, opposite the 
Filles-Dieu. The journey to Abbeville cost 36 livres ; 
the coach left every Friday at half-past eleven at 
night. Rose, having retained her place in the coach, 
set out from Paris. We may believe that she slept 
the first hours of the journey, well protected from 
the night air, and soothed to sleep by the rhythmic 
sound of the horses' hoofs and the tinkling of their 
harness bells. The coach left Paris by the gate of 
la Chapelle, passed Saint-Denis and Luzarches, and on 
summer nights reached Chantilly as the first streaks 
of dawn appeared in the sky. Now and again, as the 
driver stopped to change horses, the weary passengers 
could get down to walk about, or repose themselves 
in the guest-room of some inn, the White Horse, of 
the Golden Sun, and admire the fantastic wall-paper 
and hundred knick-knacks. 

The fresh horses would start off at a grand trot, 
and as the coach dashed through some village the 


driver would crack his whip furiously, while frightened 
hens ran helplessly backwards and forwards, and 
small boys followed behind shouting till the coach 
was lost to view^ in a cloud of dust. Then, as it 
passed along the country road bordered by trees, 
Rose closed her eyes : her mind went back fifteen 
years, to the day when she had passed along this same 
road, and a fugitive smile of pleasure played upon 
her lips. 

On the top of the coach the case containing the 
precious dress was safely stowed away, with the rest 
of the great dressmaker's luggage, who thought of 
the time when, on leaving Abbeville, all her worldly 
goods could be packed into a narrow cheap little 
trunk and a modest cardboard box which she care- 
fully held on her knees. The coach reached Clermont 
at midday, where the travellers dined, and then went 
on to Amiens, passing through Breteuil. At Amiens 
the passengers passed the night at Berny's, Rue de 
Beauvais, and the coach restarted next day for 
Abbeville, passing through Picquigny and Flixecourt 
in the Somme Valley. The terminus was in the Rue 
Saint-Gilles, so full of souvenirs for the young 
Abbevilloise, and the office being in charge of the 
same Mile. Tevenart who was there when Rose left 
the country. 

The dress which the Queen had sent her to tit on 
the Madonna at Monflieres was valued at 500 livres. 
According to the manuscripts of M. SiiFait, preserved 
at Abbeville, the lace was given by an Abbeville lady, 

Bibliol]it</ue Nationale 

To face page 100 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 101 

whose name is unknown to us. The dress was used 
for the first time on March 25, 1779, titular feast of 
the Chapel of Monfli^res. Marie- Antoinette's prayer 
had been heard : she had been happily delivered of a 
daughter, on December 19, 1778. This was Madame 
Royale, the future Duchess of Angouleme. Marie- 
Fran^oise Bertin-Havard, arelativeof Rose's, was chosen 
to superintend the wet-nurses who had been engaged. 

Having accomplished her mission, Rose left Abbe- 
ville, and returned in haste to Paris, where her 
presence was indispensable to the interests of her 
establishment. The return journey was similar to 
the outward one : the coach left Saint-Gilles on Sunday 
at midday, and reached Paris, Rue Saint-Denis, on 
the morrow at six o'clock at night. Though the 
statue of the Virgin of Monfli^res was saved from 
the fary of the Revolution, being hidden away in an 
oven, the dress made for it by Ml]e. Bertin, as an 
offering from Marie- Antoinette, has unfortunately 
disappeared, and cannot be traced. 

At the close of the year 1778, lawn bonnets, called 
bonnets picards^ were sold in the Rue Saint-Honor^. 
Did the idea come from this journey, we wonder ? 
The Comtesse de Salles ordered one on November 24, 
at the moderate price of 9 livres. The gift of a 
bonnet or hat bearing the mark " Grand-Mogol" was a 
welcome and gracious present. Thus, on one occasion 
the Marquise de Tonnerre made a present to the 
Marquise de Bouzol of a white hat, turned up at the 
back, lined with taffeta, edged with white and green 


ribbon, and with large bows of the same, which cost 
18 livres, and gave the Comtesse d'Equevilly a demi- 
honnet of gauze and blonde lace, worth 36 livres. 

Rose Bertin was also employed to make presen- 
tation costumes, which cost a considerable sum of 
money ; that of the Comtesse de Montr(^al, delivered on 
May 10, 1778, amounted to 2,417 livres. 

We have seen how the Queen of France listened to 
the advice of the great milliner, and how her reputa- 
tion and influence at the Court were great ; if further 
proof of it is needed, we have but to read what 
Bachaumont, in his " M^moires Secrets," has to say on 
the subject, when giving an account of the journey of 
the King and Queen to Paris on the occasion of the 
marriage of a hundred young girls whom the King had 
dowered in honour of the birth of Madame Royale. 

The ceremony took place at Notre Dame, and the 
cortege of twenty-eight carriages coming from la 
Muette, where the Court then was, passed along the 
Rue Saint-Honor^, to reach the Pont-Neuf, by the 
streets du Roule, la Monnaie, and the carrefour of the 
Trois- Maries. It was February 8, and great crowds 
filled the streets to see the King and Queen pass ; but 
there was very little applause, as the police had 
omitted to station aboyeurs^ or persons to start the 
cheering, as they usually did, which greatly annoyed 
Marie-Antoinette, who returned to la Muette in a 
very bad temper. " We have spoken on various 
occasions of Mile. Bertin, the Queen's milliner," says 
the "M^moires Secrets," March 5, 1779, *' who has 

LA GEANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 103 

the honour to work under Her Majesty's personal 
direction in what concerns that part of her wardrobe. 
Her shop gives on to the Rue Saint-Honor^. The day 
that the Queen made her entrance, the milliner at the 
head of her thirty work-girls took up her post on 
her balcony. Her Majesty caught sight of her in 
passing, and said , * Ah ! there is Mile. Bertin,' and 
at the same time made her a sign, to which Mile, 
Bertin replied by a profound curtsy. The King 
rose and clapped his hands — another curtsy ; all the 
Royal Family did the same, and the courtiers, aping 
their masters, did not fail to bow as they passed. So 
many curtsies fatigued her, but the distinction was a 
marvellous comfort, and greatly increased the repu- 
tation she already enjoyed." 

There was a good deal of mimicry in this little 
demonstration. No doubt the King himself was not 
altogether sincere, being chiefly anxious to please the 
Queen, and perhaps anxious to turn her thoughts 
to Mile. Bertin' s art, less costly than gambling, to 
which she was too much given. Nothing but frivolous 
subjects appealed to the Queen's childlike brain. The 
same memoirs for May 31, 1779, speak again of the 
favour the dressmaker of the Rue Saint- Honor^ 
enjoyed. '' The Queen continues to show Mile. Bertin, 
her dressmaker, special favour. At Marly lately she 
ordered the Due de Duras to find her a place at the 
theatre, and this nobleman acquitted himself of the 
order in a way calculated to excite the jealousy of 
other women." 


Does not this completely prove the importance she 
had acquired at Court ? 

It is true that the Queen, who enjoyed acting, but 
who acted very badly, had great trouble in getting 
an audience, as everyone tried to find an excuse — 
so much so that on one occasion she ordered the 
Suiss guards to attend, and to take their place 
during the play. 

This unfortunate taste of the Queen's was pleasing 
to her household at least, as it entailed continual 
changes o£ dress, disguises, hats and head-gear, of 
which everyone came in for a share. 

Rose Bertin, indeed, considered herself indispen- 
sable. Her shop was also always full, and the most 
brilliant clientMe flocked to it. All the nobility of 
France and all the members of the diplomatic service 
were among her customers. The wife of the Russian 
Plenipotentiary, Princess Baratinsky, among others, 
dealt with her, and was one of those whose bills were 
not paid. She owed about 15,000 livres, and Rose 
received 1,000 on account from Prince Baratinsky. 
The balance for which she held the Princess's note of 
hand was lost ; according to Russian law, debts of 
more than ten years' standing cannot be recovered 
legally, and the bill was never paid. 

On all sides customers flocked to her, and even the 
name of Vestris, the famous dancer, surnamed the God 
of Dance, who was still at the Opera, is to be seen in 
her books. The Marquis de Boisgelin gave his niece 
a Devonshire hat worth 120 livres ; the Baronne de 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 105 

la House ordered a Circassian dress, usually made of 
gauze. The Baronne de Montviller, daughter of Mme. 
de Misery ; the Marquis de Marboeuf, whose immense 
grounds of the Champs-Ely sees constituted one of 
the finest estates in Paris ; Viscomtesse P^rigord, the 
Marquis de Chabrillant, were to be seen in her shop, 
and a long line of carriages with armorial bearings 
stood at the door. 

Her work at Court became more and more absorb- 
ing, and at the instigation of Mme. Campan the 
famous Beaulard, who for a long time had been skil- 
fully manoeuvring to gain favour with the Queen and 
her suite, was made her official collaborator. Beaulard, 
her active and redoubtable competitor, was Rose's 
nightmare, to whom nevertheless she had to be 
agreeable. Rose certainly had done all she could to 
get the better of this enterprising competitor, and 
was very mortified that she did not succeed. Never- 
theless she was sufficiently diplomatic to disguise her 
displeasure from Mme. Campan, who had to be skil- 
fully managed. Mme. Campan had become one of 
the four first ladies of the bedchamber of the Queen. 
There was no end to the ever-changing toilettes, and 
the Queen and Mme. Campan really thought that 
Mile. Bertin might one day find that she was unable 
to cope with the orders given, and prepared in 
fevered haste in the Rue Saint-Honore, and dresses 
expected on a certain day would not be delivered. 
Mile. Bertin knew that Beaulard was a protdg^ of 
Mme. de Lamballe, ^^ and her anger was without 


bounds when she heard that he had been presented 
by her to the Queen. He brought Her Majesty an 
artificial rose, a perfect imitation, which exhaled 
a delicious perfume. The Queen was delightedly 
looking at it, when Beaulard called her attention to a 
spring hidden in the calyx. The Queen pressed it, 
and immediately the half-blown rose opened, dis- 
closing a miniature portrait of His Majesty."* The 
dressmaker conceived a violent resentment towards 
the Princess, whom she promptly sent to Coventrj^ 
the latter being greatly concerned, as she professed 
to wear nothing but hats and bonnets of the best 
style, and at Court the best style was Rose Bertin's. 
The Queen took upon herself to effect a reconciliation ; 
the matter became as important as an international 
case of arbitration. After lecturing her dressmaker, 
and representing that the incident had not been in 
any way prejudicial to her, since she kept her title of 
" dressmaker to the Queen," and that her orders had 
not decreased, she succeeded in convincing Mile. Rose, 
who consented to make her peace with the Princesse de 
Lamballe and to renew business relations with her. 

The era of eccentricities, however, was nearing 
its end. Without losing her taste for dress, the 
Queen modified the fashion of her toilettes. It was an 
abrupt change. It has been said that as the woman 
gave place to the mother her taste became more simple. 
This may have been the reason for the change, of 
which we find mention in Mme. Campan's memoirs. 

* Comtesse d'Adhemar, " Souvenirs sur Marie- Antoinette." 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 107 

'* The taste for dress to which the Queen was 
addicted during the first years of the reign gave 
place to a love for simplicity which she carried to an 
unwise degree, the splendour and magnificence of the 
throne being to a certain point inseparable in France 
from the nation's interests. 

" Excepting on days when great receptions were 
held at Court, such as January 1 and February 2 
devoted to the procession of the Order of the Holy 
Ghost, and at Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas, the 
Queen wore nothing but print dresses or dresses of 
white taffeta of Florence. She wore the simplest of 
hats, and her diamonds were never taken out of their 
cases save on the days I have mentioned. The Queen 
was not yet twenty-five, and began to fear already 
that she would be made to wear unwisely flowers and 
ornaments, which at that time were left to the very 

" Mile. Bertin having brought her a wreath and 
necklet of roses, the Queen tried it on, and expressed 
a fear that the bloom of the rose would be trying to 
her complexion. She was in truth too severe on her- 
self, as her beauty had suffered no change, and one 
may easily imagine the concert of praise and com- 
pliments with which her fears were answered. 
Approaching me, the Queen said she would rely on 
my judgment as to when the time was come to 
refrain from wearing flowers. ' Think of it well,' 
she said ; ' I charge you from this day to warn me 
frankly when flowers no longer suit me.' 'I shall do 


nothing of the kind, madame,' I replied ; ' I have not 
read " Gil Bias " in vain, and I find too much resem- 
blance in your Majesty's order to that given to him 
by the Archbishop of Toledo, to warn him when he 
was deteriorating in his homilies.' ' Ah/ said the 
Queen, 'you are less sincere than "Gil Bias," and I 
should have been more generous than the Archbishop 
of Toledo.' " 

In spite of the Queen's simplicity, Rose Bertin's 
visits to Versailles, to the Tuileries, to Saint-Cloud, 
wherever the Court happened to be, were none the 
less frequent. 

It was at Versailles that was realized one day the 
gipsy's prediction that Rose's train would be carried 
at Court. It was realized, however, in a very comical 
fashion. Rose's footman who usually accompanied 
her to the palace had left, his place being filled by an 
honest country fellow, recommended to her by a 
friend, a certain M. Moreau Desjardins, a lace- 
merchant of Chantilly, who had the man's brother in 
his employ. The poor man straight from the 
country was quite lost in Paris, and, on being told that 
he was to accompany mademoiselle to Court, was com- 
pletely overwhelmed, and felt twice as awkward as he 
really was. He confided his fears to the lady's-maid, 
who had other fish to fry than to offer consolation 
to a provincial footman. '' But what shall I do," he 
said in despair, " when I am at the palace ?" " Do 
as the rest do," she replied mockingly. He did it. 
There were other carriages at the palace when Mile. 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 109 

Bertin's arrived. He watched the other footmen ; 
great ladies got down from their carriages, he saw the 
noblest ladies in France pass before him, followed by 
the most elegant of footmen. When Rose's turn 
arrived, she jumped lightly to the ground and began 
to go up the staircase. She quickly noticed that she 
was attracting a good deal of unusual attention ; 
people looked at each other in amazment, and some 
seemed on the verge of uncontrollable laughter, and 
they were not the most impertinent. Astounded, 
Rose stopped, realizing that she was being laughed at, 
and, on turning round, found that her rustic footman 
was carrying the train of her dress as the footmen of 
Duchesses and Marchionesses had done for their 

Smiles and laughter wounded her self-love, but at 
the same time there was satisfaction in remembering 
that the gipsy's prediction had come true. She saw her- 
self again on a winter's day in her black dress, un- 
packing the ornaments of the Demoiselles de Bourbon, 
and Avarming her feet at the fireplace of the Princesse 
de Conti, and then glanced at herself in the mirrors 
of the great gallery of Versailles, where the most 
secret apartments were open to her, and where she 
could cross without delay the antechambers where 
great ladies waited their turn for an audience. 

It was therefore not without a certain pleasure 
that a few minutes later, in the Queen's cabinet, she 
told the tale of the prediction of her childhood at 
Abbeville, and its realization ; the Queen laughed 


heartily, and on the King's entrance, having heard the 
tale, he joined in the mirth. Rose could not only admire 
herself in the mirrors of the great gallery, she could 
also admire her handiwork in the paintings on the walls, 
as, for example, when she passed before the portrait 
of the Queen painted by Mme. Yigee-Lebrun in 1799, 
in which the great painter had immortalized some of 
the creations of the Rue Saint- Honore. This portrait 
was the first of the Queen painted by the celebrated 
artist ; there are two copies, as Mme. Yigee-Lebrun 
tells us in her souvenirs, one of which is still at 

''It was in the year 1799," she says, "that I first 
painted the Queen's portrait. She was then in all 
the splendour of her youth and beauty. ... It was 
then that I painted the portrait of her with a large 
basket, dressed in a satin dress, and holding a rose 
in her hand. The portrait was intended for her 
brother, the Emperor Joseph II., and the Queen 
ordered two copies — one for the Empress of Russia, 
the other for her apartments at Versailles or Fontaine- 

The Queen's head-dress is not very exaggerated, 
being composed of a light puff of greenish- white silk 
gauze, with ostrich feathers. The " Correspondance 
Litt^raire," June, 1780, speaks of the change in fashion 
and of the abandoning of the high coiffure, which 
gave way to a simjDler style, a simplicity which 
extended to the whole costume. Rose Bertin, how- 
ever, lost nothing of her reputation, and was still 

BiblioUiique So.Lioncde 

To face page 110 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 111 

in favour at Court. One summer day in 1780, when 
the Court was at Marly, she was present in the 
theatre Avhen the Queen noticed that she had not 
a very good place, whereupon she sent for Marshal 
Duras, who was Master of Ceremonies, and told him 
to find her dressmaker a better place, which he did 
with great eagerness and gallantry. This was the 
second time this honour had been shown to Rose ; 
but although it caused a good deal of chatter on 
the first occasion, people were getting used to such 
things, and little notice w^as taken of it the second 
time. Comtesse de Ears speaks of the incident, 
however, with a certain bitterness : " The appearance 
of that woman at the castle was an event. The best 
place at the theatre was reserved for this grisette, who 
was conducted to it by the Due de Duras, Master of 
Ceremonies, who led her by the hand." 

Grisette I the leading dressmaker of Paris, and of 
the whole world ! The subject of the remark would 
have died of rage had she heard it. 

Marie-Antoinette had returned to her passion for 
acting. Wherever the Court happened to be, plays 
by Favart and Rousseau were given, or comic operas 
by Monsigny: " L' Anglais a Bordeaux," " Le Devin 
de Village," " Rose et Colas," etc. 

All the actresses in these plays were Rose Bertin's 
clients : The Comtesse de Chalons, Mme. de Coligny, 
the Duchesse Diane de Polignac, the Duchesse de 
Guiche, and " that amiable statue of Melancholy, that 
pale and languishing person whose head drooped to 


her shoulder, the Comtesse de Polastron."* Marie- 
Antoinette for good reasons had definitely abandoned 
the idea of again appearing herself in her theatre. 

The year 1780 closed with the death of the 
Empress Maria- Theresa (November 29). The Court 
naturally went into mourning, which occasioned a 
great deal of work to the Queen's outfitters. 

Rose Bertin's character was not calculated to 
please her exacting clients. Even the persons of the 
Queen's own household had difficulty in bearing with 
her. Mme. Campan severely criticizes her in her 
memoirs. " Mile. Bertin," she says, " took ad- 
vantage of the Queen's kindness to display great 
pride. One day a lady went to her establishment 
to buy certain articles of ajDparel for the Court 
mourning for the Empress. Several things were 
shown her, which she refused. Mile. Bertin exclaimed 
thereupon, in a tone of anger and self-sufficiency : 
' Show madam the last samples of my work with 
Her Ma;jesty.' The remark is silly enough to have 
been really uttered." Mme. Campan's criticism is 
harsh, but well deserved. The anecdote went the 
round, several writers speak of it, and we find it 
given by the writer who continued Bachaumont's 
" Memoires Secrets," under the date January 4, 1781. 
In fact, Rose could speak of nothing but her collabor- 
ation with the Queen. She spoke of it to all comers 
boastingly ; people laughed, but she gave little heed 
to that. 

* " Le Theatre a Trianon." 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 113 

She had nothing to complain of as to the progress 
of her establishment ; things were going very well, 
and the cost of the Queen's toilettes grew more and 
more considerable. In a statement of expenses drawn 
up for the years 1777 and 1781 by Randon de la 
Tour, Treasurer of the Households of the King and 
Queen, we find the following note appended : 

" The supplementary expenses of the wardrobe, 
which in 1777 amounted to 37,106 livres, amount in 
1781 to 84,000 livres, an increase of 46,894 livres."* 

The statement of expenses of the Queen's House- 
hold f shows us that the extraordinary expenses for 
the wardrobe amount respectively to 194,118 livres 
17 sols in 1780, 151,290 livres 3 sols in 1781, 
199,509 livres 4 sols in 1782. 

The Marchioness of Grammont, Comtesse d*Ossun, 
who had been Lady-in- Waiting since 1781, explains 
this increase in a letter dated from Versailles : J 

" I have, sir, the honour of sending you a state- 
ment of the expenses for the Queen's wardrobe 
during last year, 1782. The sum is considerably 
higher than I could wish ; but the feasts given for 
the Count du Nord, and the arrangements I had 
made for the visit to Marly, which was to have 
taken place last autumn, compelled me to exceed 
the limits I had laid down. I am hoping that this 
present year may be less costly, as I have in reserve 
articles which I had selected for Marly, and which 

* Archives Nationales, Serie 0\ 3,793. 
t Ibid. X I^^' 



may be used this spring. I beg you will please to 
inform the King of these details, when requesting his 
orders for the payment to me of a supplementary 
sum of 111,509 livres, which I require to pay this 
year's bills." 

We learn from the above that Louis XVI. was 
comptroller of these expenses, although he did not 
check them. 

Overwhelmed as she was by work for the Queen, 
Rose was necessarily compelled to neglect sometimes 
other clients, and her arrogance when reproached 
caused her to lose more than the customer. 

"Flattery and attention had turned poor Mile. 
Bertin s head," writes the Vicomtesse de Ears, who 
was one of those who had little love for the dress- 
maker. " A lady of my acquaintance went to her 
shop in her absence to order a hat d la Bertoiiienne 
for the wife of a lawyer of Bordeaux." Pierre 
Montan Berton was the director of the Opera, under 
whose administration the fame of that house spread 
abroad from the works of the two rival composers, 
Gluck and Piccini, presented there. He died in 1780, 
and his name was the pretext for a new style of hat. 
" The price," adds Mme. de Ears, " was settled by 
Mile. Picot, first workwoman of the establishment, 
and paid in advance by my friend, who left giving 
her address. Two hours later a servant dressed in 
green livery with gold braid brought back the money 
left for the hat, with a note from Mile. Bertin, worded 
in a ridiculous fashion, stating that it was impossible 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 115 

for her to work for the wife of a lawyer, as all her 
time and that of her workers was employed in carry- 
ing out the orders of Her Majesty and the Court." 

Charlotte Picot realized the advantage she might 
derive from the situation ; her conduct, in fact, differed 
in no way from that of Rose Bertin herself with respect 
to her employer, Mile. Pagelle. Charlotte was " a 
very skilful, intelligent, and, above all, enterprising 
worker," says the " Memoires Secrets," " who, realizing 
her talent, set up for herself, and soon robbed her 
former mistress of the majority of her clients." Which 
is perhaps somewhat exaggerated. 

" Besides her intelligence," says the Comtesse de 
Fars, '' she had a pretty face and great tact ; she left 
Mile. Bertin, therefore, and raised an altar against her 

This was quite sufficient to arouse the anger of a 
person as quick-tempered as Rose Bertin ; bat there 
was perhaps another motive more serious still — that 
is, if the statement in the " Souvenirs de Leonard " 
is correct. It is related in this book that Mile. Picot 
circulated a story among the scandal-loving ladies 
who frequented her shop, that " Mile. Bertin, at the 
time when the King's Household had been dismissed 
by the Comte de Saint-Germain, had not troubled to 
reform a grey musketeer, whose maintenance had 
already been very costly, not only because of his five 
feet seven and a half inches, but also because of his 
habit of losing eight or ten louis every evening 
at faro, to which habit he added that of beating Mile. 


Bertin whenever he was unable to satisfy this fatal 

That Mile. Bertin had been the subject of scandal- 
mongering tongues is not surprising ; the contrary 
would have been surprising at a time when loose 
morals were general, and when pamphleteers spared 
neither the Queen nor any prominent person. But it 
is quite incredible that the arrogant milliner would 
have tolerated such treatment as is described by the 
author of the " Souvenirs de Leonard." 

Fate decreed that, at the moment when Mile. Bertin 
was most exasperated with Mile. Picot, they should 
meet in the gallery at Versailles. The " Mdmoires 
Secrets '* tells us that in a moment of anger Mile. 
Bertin spat in her enemy's face and insulted her. A 
lawsuit followed, and on Monday, September 3, 
judgment was given against Rose Bertin, who was 
sentenced to pay 20 livres as alms and all the costs. 
" Considering the place where the insult was com- 
mitted, the punishment is regarded as insufficient." 

In view of Rose Bertin's pride, the sentence was 
pleasing to many who had suffered from her imperti- 
nence. The "Mdmoires Secrets" goes on to say, after 
reporting the incident under date September 8, 1781, 
that Rose Bertin appealed to the Grand Conseil : *'The 
case was to have been heard on Wednesday — that is to 
say, to-day — but the Queen, whose kindness to Mile. 
Bertin, her dressmaker, is well known, caused a letter 
to be written to M. de Nicolai, President of the Court, 
asking him to come to report the state of the case to 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 117 

her before proceeding farther. The case has been, 
therefore, remanded for a week." The documents 
relating to the case are preserved in the archives of 

The following is the complaint of Mile. Picot : 

'' To the Lieutenant-General of the Police for Civil 
and Criminal Matters, etc., at Versailles. Humbly 
sheweth, that Charlotte Picot, spinster of age, dress- 
maker, residing in Paris, Rue Saint- Honore, at the 
' Corbeille Galante/ parish of Saint- Germain I'Auxer- 
rois, having furnished dresses to the ladies Vassy who 
were presented at Court on the 15th of this month of 
April, Easter Day, petitioner went on the morning 
of the said day to Versailles on business. After 
dinner the petitioner went into the gallery of the 
castle to walk about and see the effect of the dresses. 

" Towards half-past six, petitioner being in the 
Queen's card-room, awaiting the King and Royal 
Family, who were in the chaj^el, she perceived Mile. 
Bertin, dressmaker of Paris, Rue Saint- Honore, facing 
Saint-Honore, accompanied by two young ladies, 
walking in the gallery. Mile. Bertin, in passing before 
petitioner, stopped, gazed at her attentively, and con- 
tinued her walk, but returned a moment later, stopped 
in front of the petitioner, and fixed her eyes on her 

* Serie B, Prevote de PHotel. Procedures de 1782 
et Registre des Audiences de 1781-82. See also " Un 
Moment d'Humeur de Mile. Rose Bertin,'*'* par E. Conard, 
Versailles, 1891. 


for two or three minutes; which perceiving, petitioner 
turned her head away, whereupon Mile. Bertin, seek- 
ing an opportunity of insulting her, seized that 
moment to spit in petitioner's face. 

" Such a grave insult is infinitely reprehensible in 
every point of view. It was committed in the Castle 
of Versailles, in the room facing the Queen's apart- 
ments — that is to say, at a spot where everything 
brings the Royal Family, and the respect due to them, 
to one's mind ; for which reason it is absolutely 
necessary that measures should be adopted to prevent 
a recurrence of such a scandal, which can only be 
eflfected by imposing a severe penalty. On the other 
hand, to spit in a person's face is to show the 
greatest contempt for that person. The petitioner, 
who did not expect such an insult, fainted and lost 
consciousness, and would have perished but for the 
ready assistance of persons near her. It was not, 
indeed, until half an hour later that she recovered 
consciousness, and was able to leave the gallery of the 
castle, and to return to her cariage, and thus to Paris. 

" The petitioner, jealous of her honour and reputa- 
tion, is anxious to obtain legal reparation for the 
insult given her by Mile. Bertin, for which reason 
she has recourse to your authority. 

" Having considered which, sir, may it please you 
to give petitioner satisfaction for the insult given her 
by Mile. Bertin as related above, and permit petitioner 
in your presence to bring evidence of the matter, 
according to the facts communicated to the King's 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 119 

Attorney, in conjunction with whom you, sir, may 
come to some fitting decision. . . . 

^' Charlotte Picot." 

We learn from the above the exact site of Rose 
Bertin's establishment, "facing Saint- Honor6"; no 
trace of this church remains, nor of the house where 
the dressmaker resided, the Louvre being built upon 
the site. In answer to Mile. Picot, Rose's counsel 
produced his defence, of which the " Correspondance 
Litt^raire " gives certain extracts, as follows : 

" Mile. Picot desires to cover with shame her to 
whom she owes her existence and position. How 
shall I find words to express the horror such an 
action inspires ? I will not try — I pity her ; but I 
owe it to justice, to the public who esteem me, to the 
great who honour me with their protection and 
kindness, and above all to myself, to defend myself 
from an accusation so atrocious, so false, and, I dare 
to say it, so incredible. 

" Without following in detail the history of all the 
services rendered by Mile. Bertin to Mile. Picot, a 
history unimportant in itself, but throughout which 
the greatest names in France have a place, we will 
limit ourselves to the principal fact and defence. 

" I never have, and I never shall, do harm to 
anyone, not even to Mile. Picot. But who would 
say that it is criminal for me to look with contempt 
upon a person who should be deeply grateful to me, 


and instead has deceived me so cruelly ? I despise her 
absolutely, I admit it — it is but what she deserves. 
I met her about six o'clock in the evening: of the 15th 
of last April, in the room giving on to the gallery at 
Versailles. 1 did not see her ; the persons who accom- 
panied me mentioned her name. The sight of her 
revolted me, my stomach turned, the horror she in- 
spired me with caused my gorge to rise, and no doubt 
the involuntary contraction of the muscles of my face 
made apparent the disgust and repulsion I felt at the 
sight of her ; but I did not spit, I could not have 
done so, I was petrified, and the persons who accom- 
panied me, and who never lost sight of me, can bear 
me witness of this, and I desire to give evidence of 
this and all the facts of which I have spoken, if it is 
thought fit. . . . 

'' I am ignorant of what lies Mile. Picot's friends 
may have told . . . but I am morally certain none of 
them can have said that they saw me spit in her face. I 
commit such an outrage, and in the King's palace, close 
to the apartments of the Queen, who is so good as to 
sometimes stoop to show me kindness — I dare to say 
no one will believe it. My Judge did not believe it, 
and referred the case to the Civil Court, but my 
counsel will explain all this." 

The hearing of the witnesses brought by Mile. Picot 
was fixed for April 23. They were five in number. 

Jean-Baptiste de Gumin, gentleman, native of 
Dauphiny, a stockbroker of Lyons, declared that he 

Br(jl /othc'inc Nal iiiihuli. 


Ajl'-i- Le Cltrr (/(./., Ih' inii.< .<c.. 177'J 

'J'n face iiayc 1211 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-3 781) 121 

was with his party, composed of M. Thon, cloth- 
merchant of Paris, Mme. de Gumin, his wife, and 
her lady's-maid, " in the room at the entrance of the 
gallery, on the side of the chapel and facing the 
Queen's apartments." This witness's deposition con- 
firms the facts of the plaintiff's case, but does not 
agree with it as to the spot where the insult occurred, 
as, indeed, none of the witnesses do. "In the Queen's 
card-room," says Mile. Picot. Well, the latter room 
was at the extreme south end of the gallery, and is 
known as the Peace Room, while the room facing it 
is called the War Room. Charlotte Picot's fainting fit 
must have affected her memory, or she did not know 
the palace, otherwise she could not have mistaken the 
two rooms ; but we confess that we are a little 
sceptical as to the importance of the outrage which 
the girl, who thought she would die on the spot, is 
alleged to have suffered. We are more inclined than 
Rose Bertin's contemporaries to diminish her guilt, 
as it seems probable that Charlotte Picot was a 
hypocrite only too glad to seize the occasion as an 
advertisement, at a time when sandwich men had 
not been imported from England to promenade in 
single file in the gallery of the Palais-Royal, the 
centre then of the Parisian world, as the boulevards 
which stretch from Saint-Denis to the Madeleine are 
now. The second witness was Mme. de Gumin, 
whose maiden name was Catherine Thon, who also 
says that the incident took place " in the room before 
the gallery of the castle," where she was standing 


"to see the Royal Family coming from Benediction 
in the chapel." Aime Thon says the same. Madeleine 
Bailly, Mme. de Gumin's lady's-maid, is of the same 
opinion, so we may conclude that it was in the War 
Room that the insult offered by the warlike Mile. 
Bertin to her ex-employ^ took place. The deposition 
of Pierre Guertin, employe of Messrs. Thon, Joly 
and Co. , is identical with that of his employer. 

The five witnesses were agreed in putting the 
blame on Mile. Bertin ; but were they not exaggerat- 
ing the incident, had they no interest in the matter ? 
I consider one witness at least suspect — that is, 
Pierre Guertin ; what was he doing at Versailles 
that day, and how came he to be in Charlotte Picot's 
company ? It is evident from M. Thon's deposition, 
given below, that all these people were acquainted 
with each other. M. Thon deposes that " on Easter 
Day last, 15th instant, having come to Versailles to 
see the Court, and being, about six or half-past six in 
the evening, in company with M. and Mme. Gumin, 
deponent's brother-in-law and sister, in His Majesty's 
palace, in the room called the War Room, giving on 
to the gallery on the side of the chapel, having taken 
up position near the windows leading to the terrace 
to see the Court on their way from Benediction, 
Mile. Picot, accompanied by M. Guertin, deponent^s 
employe, approached the party, and placed them- 
selves by deponent's side ; at the same moment he 
saw Mile. Bertin, also a dressmaker of Paris, coming 
from the gallery, Mile. Picot being at the time in 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 123 

conversation with deponent. The said Mile. Bertin 
approached the said Mile. Picot, and, gazing on her 
fixedly with a look of contempt, spat upon her neck 
on the left side, saying, 'I promised you this — I have 
kept my word,' and then went on her way. Imme- 
diately the said Mile. Picot felt unwell, and they were 
obliged to lean her against one of the windows and 
apply eau de Cologne to relieve her. A little later 
deponent saw the said Mile. Bertin return, while 
deponent's sister was still endeavouring to revive the 
said Mile. Picot from her fainting fit, upon whom the 
said Mile. Bertin cast a look of contempt and disdain. 
After the said Mile. Picot came to herself, deponent 
and his party left her." 

We trust that Pierre Guertin did not do the same, 
that he bid good-bye to his employer, M. Thon, and 
remained behind to render further assistance to the 
wretched Charlotte. In any case, the return from 
Versailles after such a scene, in company with a 
woman still nervous and trembling from the effects 
of it, cannot have presented the same charm as the 
journey there, with the young green of the trees to 
brighten the route, and the indescribable joy of April 
to lend enhanced beauty to the luxurious carriages 
bearing the noblest in France to the Palace of 

The text of the sentences pronounced against Rose 
Bertin on August 18 and September 1 bear witness 
that thouofh the Court considered a certain censure 
necessary, yet, like us, they considered that the wit- 


nesses were not entirely reliable, and that a nominal 
fine would meet the case. 

The sentence of August 18 prohibits the defendant 
from spitting again in the plaintiff's face, and con- 
demns her to pay a fine of 20 livres, applicable, 
with plaintiff's consent, to the poor of the parish of 
Saint-Germain I'Auxerrois. The sentence of Septem- 
ber 1 merely confirms the first. 

Rose Bertin was not a woman to capitulate without 
fighting. At the news that the first sentence had 
been confirmed, no doubt doors were slammed in the 
privacy of the Rue Saint- Honor e ; but at Versailles, 
or anywhere else where her business with the Queen 
took her, she presented a serene countenance and 
succeeded in interesting Her Majesty in her case. 
" The amusing part of the adventure," says the 
Yicomtesse de Ears in her memoirs, " was that Mile. 
Bertin, pending judgment, solicited the Queen to 
interpose her authority in the matter, assuring her 
that her royal dignity would be compromised in the 
affront which she who worked with her might 
receive ; and when sentence was passed, Mile. Bertin 
replied to all who came with sympathy : '* Alas ! it is 
not I who am offended in all this, but her Majesty 

She then appealed to the Grand Conseil. Sentence 
was about to be pronounced, when the Queen sent for 
M. de Nicolai, President of the Court, to confer with 
him upon the point, and the case was remanded for 
eight days. Judgment was finally passed on 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 125 

December 19, and the sentence may be seen in the 
Archives Nationales (vol. v., p. 894). 

" Between Mile. Bertin, dressmaker to the Queen 
. . . the appellant, according to her petition presented to 
the Council on December 11 . . . begs that her appeal be 
granted, and the sentence and proceedings of the 
Prevote de THotel be declared null, and the said 
Mile. Picot be condemned in such damages as the 
Council shall think fit . . . the appellant denies formally 
all the facts set forth in Mile. Picot 's complaint of 
April 18, 1781, and, on the contrary, is ready to bring 
evidence in proof of the following facts : 

*' 1. That at the hour appellant is accused of 
spitting in Mile. Picot's face she was in the Queen's 
apartments, having received instructions to await 
Her Majesty there on her return from Benediction, on 
Easter Day, 1 5th of last April ; and that she remained 
there until seven o'clock in the evening. 

"2. That when apellant passed and repassed through 
the gallery and in the War Room it was not more than 
a quarter after five, and that she passed and repassed 
without spitting in Mile. Picot's face, nor on her, nor 
on any person whatsoever. 

" 3. That at the moment she passed, one of the 
young ladies who work in her shop, and who 
accompanied her, called her attention to Mile. Picot, 
near to one of the Suiss guards of the castle, who was 
there to keep back the crowd and leave a free passage ; 
nearly hidden by the Suisse, appellant was more than 


six feet from Mile. Picot, so that even had she had a 
tube in her mouth she could not have spat such a 
distance, and still less take aim at the face of the said 
Mile. Picot ; and had she spat, and if the spittle had 
reached as far as Mile. Picot the Suisse and other 
persons standing near would have been spattered and 
would have complained, and appellant would have 
been arrested on the spot. 

*' 4. That Mile. Picot was standing with her right 
shoulder to the people passing to the chapel, and not 
the left, as her witnesses have stated. , 

'* 5. That there were more than sixty persons in 
the War Room when appellant passed and repassed 
on April 15, 1781, being Easter Day, at about a 
quarter past five in the evening, so that if the 
appellant had really spat in Mile. Picot's face, and if 
the alleged insult had caused the commotion she has 
depicted in her complaint, and had she fainted, and 
been carried half dead to the window, while smelling 
salts were used to revive her and restore her from 
her fainting condition, she might have had sixty 
witnesses ready to depose to the truth of so 
scandalous and notorious an outrage, which had 
aroused the attention of all the spectators ; and had 
she not delayed three days in bringing a charge, she 
would not have been reduced to the four or ^yq 
persons whom she thought fit to choose fi:*om her 
own party, and who during the three days she had 
made accomplices of her little plot. 

" The appellant begs leave to bring evidence in 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 127 

contradiction of the facts set forth in Mile. Picot's 
complaint. . . . 

'' And the said Mile. Picot, appellant, presents 
petition dated December 17, 1781, begging that 
the Council may be pleased to disregard the appeal 
of the said Mile. Bertin. . . . 

" After Desnos, counsel for Mile. Bertin, assisted 
by Carteron his attorney, had concluded his speech, 
and Mitte, counsel for Mile. Picot, assisted by his 
attorney Maillon, had concluded his speech, and after 
De Yaucresson, for the King's Attorney-General, had 
likewise been heard, and the case had been heard 
in two sittings — 

" The Council finds that the appeal of the party 
represented by Desnos, against the sentences in 
question, is well founded, and, in accordance with 
the King's Attorney- General, declares the sentence 
given at the Pr^vot^ de I'Hotel, May 12, 1781, null 
and void, as also all proceedings connected with it 
. . . and condemns the party represented by Mitte 
to pay the costs of appeal. 

"Given in Paris, by the Council, December 19, 

The Queen's influence had perhaps something to do 
with the sentence, which was nevertheless justified by 
the insufficient evidence brought by Charlotte Picot. 

A new case was brought, however, and for six 
months the litigation was continued, to the profit and 
amusement of magistrates, lawyers, and public. 


The jurisdiction of the Pr^vot^ de rH6tel had 
been already turned into ridicule, notably by Cochu, 
lawyer of the Council. The Provost of the^Hotel was 
nicknamed " Roi des Ribands," it being alleged that 
his chief duty was to watch over the gay ladies who 
followed the Court. The lawsuit of the two dress- 
makers was well calculated to provoke public laughter 

A new case was opened in January, 1782, and the 
appeal was heard in April before Claude-Joseph Clos, 
King's Counsel, Lieutenant-General of the Police for 
Civil and Criminal Causes. A complete inquiry was 
made and new witnesses heard. Petitions and objec- 
tions were multiplied on both sides, and the case 
dragged on until 1784 — that is, more than three years, 
during which time, no doubt, the work-girls and 
clients of the Rue Saint-Honord suffered greatly at 
the hands of the irritable Rose. 

Various events which happened during the course 
of 1781 diverted public attention from lawsuits and 
minor incidents. The Opera-house took fire. Rose 
Bertin's establishment in the Rue Saint-Honord was 
situated between the Rue Champfleuri and Rue du 
Chantre, both of which have disappeared ; in fact, it 
was built almost on the spot where now stands the 
entrance to the Louvre, called the Saint-Honord Door. 
The Opera was at the corner of the Rue de Valois, 
quite near to Rose Bertin's shop. 

The fire was very considerable, and there were 
various victims ; but the number would have been 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 129 

much greater but for the presence of mind of the 
ballet-master, who was on the stage when the fire 
broke out. It was on the night of June 8. The air 
was heavy and stormy, and rain had begun to fall. 
The ballet *' Orpheus" was being given, when the ballet- 
master gave an abrupt order for the dancing to cease, 
which caused a certain amount of murmuring among 
the audience ; the curtain was instantly dropped. 
Order was then given to cut the ropes which held 
the piece of burning scenery ; the order was clumsily 
carried out, the ropes being cut on one side only. 
Hanging in this way the scenery burnt more quickly, 
and soon the whole theatre was in flames. The 
smoke had already driven the audience out, their cries 
awakening the whole district. People crowded to 
their windows, and the street filled quickly. A fire 
in the Paris of olden days, with its narrow streets, was 
a terrible business. People could still remember the 
fire which consumed the Hotel Dieu on December 30, 
1772, and cries of alarm arose as a column of 
flame more than 200 feet high shot into the air, 
" tinged with many colours, an effect due to the 
burning oil-painted scenery and gilded boxes." The 
Palais-Royal was in great danger ; the roof several 
times caught fire, but was speedily extinguished. 
Not only the Palais-Royal but, indeed, the whole 
district, was in danger from the continual shower of 
burning sparks and splinters which fell on the adjoin- 
ing roofs. The reservoirs, which should have been full, 
were absolutely empty. Anxiety was at its height 



during the whole of that night, the panic being con- 
siderably increased about half-past nine by the falling 
in of the rafters, which caused a great shower of 

Happily there was no wind, and, as rain continued 
to fall, the fire was confined to the theatre, which was 
completely burnt; it had been burnt before in 1773, 
and rebuilt on the same site. On June 15, a week 
after it had broken out, the fire was still burning in 
the foundations of the theatre. 

There were, unfortunately, various victims, amongst 
whom w^ere several of the dancers. Eleven corpses were 
found in the first instance, and taken to the Morgue. 
M. de Caumartin, Provost of Merchants, and Le Noir, 
Chief of the Police, w^ere on the spot from the begin- 
ning, endeavouring to organize willing helpers in order 
to save what was possible ; " but the firemen's efforts," 
says Mercier, '^ were powerless to save anything but 
the facade on the Rue Saint-Honore." 

Rose Bertin might have watched from her windows 
the sad cortege which bore the bodies of the victims 
to the Church Saint-Honore, facing her shop ; and as 
the search in the ruins of the theatre continued some 
days, she was an eyewitness of the heart-rending 
scenes, no one being better able than she to carry 
news of the search to the Queen, who was at Marly 
expecting her second child. The fire at the Opera- 
house, of all theatrical fires in Paris, has only been 
surpassed in horror by that which consumed the 

LA GRANDE VOGUE (1778-1781) 131 

Opera Comique in 1887, when there was a holocaust 
of more than 200 victims. 

In spite of the Queen's condition, the inventive 
genius of milliners continued to design new fashions. 
The Dauphin was born on October 22, 1781, and 
this event also helped to divert public attention from 
the Bertin law^suit. The birth was the occasion, too, 
of new styles of hats ; bonnets a la Henri IV., a la Ger- 
trude, aux Cerises, a la Fanfan, aitx Sentiments replies y 
a V Esclavage brisSy a Colin- Maillardy gave place to 
hats au Dauphin^ and then to hats in honour of the 
churching of the Queen. 

Louise Fusil has told us in her " Souvenirs d'une 
Actrice " how a society woman spent her day at this 
time. On rising she would put on a dressing-gown 
and receive a few intimate friends, change this for 
a morning cloak to go into her oratory, and the 
cloak for a light peignoir to retire into her cabinet. 
t' The pretty boudoir, with its favourite ornaments ; 
the walls covered with engravings of past fashions, 
which look so ridiculous when they have passed. 
One says to oneself : ' Great God ! did I wear that ?' 
' Yes, madam, and very charming you looked in 
that hat.' ' It is not possible.' To go out one wore 
a long cloak with blonde lace, and veil, and in winter 
white hood and wadded satin cloak. For dinner, if 
one was alone, a neglige toilette was permissible, 
unless there was a ball or visits to follow. Dresses 
and coiffures were similar to the style often to be 


seen at our theatres, with the exception of the hats 
a la Henri IV,, which have not yet been adopted. 

" One may suppose, considering the taste for luxury, 
that it was above all at Longchamps that the greatest 
display was made. Long beforehand ladies could 
think of nothing but how to invent some fashion 
no one else had thought of. . . . Milliners and 
costumiers were worth their weight in gold, and 
came to assist in planning the attack." 





In 1782 Marie -Antoinette discovered a new amuse- 
ment. As little girls play at keeping shop, the 
Queen took to playing at being a milkmaid and a 
shepherdess, with the whole village of Trianon for 
her playground. But she was a clean shepherdess, 
a coquettish milkmaid, a village maiden in silk attire, 
after Watteau ; and consequently hats and dresses 
were required to suit the part. 

White became her favourite colour. The Creoles 
of St. Domingo had introduced it into Bordeaux, 
where it had become very fashionable. Linen, linon, 
cotton, and calico, pure white or striped with pale 
colours, supplanted all other kinds of material, to the 
great advantage of the manufactory of figured cottons 
established by Oberkampf at Jouy in 1750. 

Fichus were discarded in favour of swansdown 
palatines called chats. 

The two most fashionable types of dress were the 



polonaise and the anglaise. The polonaise was an 
open overdress, above a rather short skirt, with three 
breadths raised and draped, one on each side and one 
at the back. The sleeves stopped short above the 
elbow ; a hood was sometimes adapted to the bodice. 
The anglaise was a kind of coat generally worn for 

Rose kept her monopoly and her notoriety ; nothing 
so stimulates the latter as caricature and satire. 
The obscure are not made fun of, nor do they appear 
upon the stage in a transparent disguise. Not 
everyone can be the theme of a popular song; still 
less is it given to many people to see themselves in 
a theatrical representation. Rose had that unheard- 
of stroke of luck, an advertisement quite unique at 
that date. On April 9, 1782, a comedy-vaudeville 
by Pr^vot, an advocate of Parliament, was produced 
at the Theatre Italien. This comedy was a sort of 
allegorical revue^ at first presented without a title, and 
afterwards called " Le Public Yengd." 

We read in " Correspondance Litt^raire " : " The 
background of the scene represents a desert. Truth 
appears asleep in the arms of Time. . . . Opinion and 
Caprice twist and twirl, holding the portfolio of the 
Public. Amphigouri and her troupe, consisting of 
Cabal, Paradox, Nycticorax, Dramomane, and Har- 
moniche, had long endeavoured to keep the public 
beyond the reach of Truth. The national Genius, 
exiled by bad taste, returns to his native France 
after long travels. He puts to flight all the ridiculous 

M V si'c Cii ma vale t 


Desiijncd bit WaAtf^uu, ciinrc re<l i.nj Baniv.ojj 

Til face page 134 


phantoms which had taken possession of tiie Public, 
breaks the bonds with which they had bound him, 
and reconciles him with Truth, Laughter, and the 


This is surely a transparent satire upon past eccen- 
tricities, given at a moment when the public taste 
showed a reaction towards simplicity. The " Cor- 
respondance Litt^raire " continues : '' The part of 
Mme. du Costume, or Mile. Bertin, who comes 
forward, of course, to give the Public an account 
of her success, contains a rather agreeably rhymed 
madrigal, but it is introduced so awkwardly that it 
produced very little effect : 

Sitr Pair de ^''La Baronne.'''' 

" C'est un mystere : 
Trop tard vos cartons sont venus. 

C'est un mystere 
Sur une Grace je voulus 
Epuiser tons les dons de plaire 
Elle avait tout pris chez Venus, 

Cest un mystere/' 

Pr^vot was not a great poet, and these verses are 
very mediocre. It is not surprising that they got 
rather a cold reception. The mystery enwraps the 
author's meaning so delicately that it renders it a 
trifle obscure. 

" At my place," says Mme. Costume elsewhere, 
"you will find jointed dolls, representing the manners, 
morals, and characteristics, of our time, and in six 
seances, at the very most, you will get a complete 
description of the whole nation." 


The character of Mme. de Costume was used as a 
pretext for a panegyric of the new spirit which seemed 
destined to rule the world of dress. 

The fashions, indeed, appeared much simpler ; but 
Mile. Bertin worked as hard as ever, and Marie- Antoin- 
ette's expenditure was not in the least diminished. 

The Queen had not willingly abandoned the fashion 
of dressing the hair in huge erections, and pyramids 
surmounted by flowers, feathers, etc. Her hair began 
to fall out in 1778 after the birth of Madame Roy ale, 
and none of the remedies she essayed was successful 
in stopping it. Then she adopted the coiffure called 
a V enfant^ which consisted of a flat chignon and a 
long floating curl, like the peruke of an abb^. This 
had taught her that some advantage may be drawn 
from the fashion even by following it with simplicity. 

A picture in the galleries of Versailles gives some 
idea of the fashions of that time. It represents Mme. 
de Lamballe, one of Rose's titled customers. Though 
it was painted by Rioult in 1843, there is every 
indication that it is only a reproduction or enlarge- 
ment of an early miniature painted from life. In this 
picture, Mme. de Lamballe wears a straw hat covered 
with white gauze, and trimmed with a wreath of roses, 
myosotis, and jasmine. This is certainly the most 
elegant head-dress designed in the workshops of the 
Rue Saint-Honor^ ; and not only the most elegant, but 
one of those which most nearly approaches the present 
fashions, and perhaps the only one in really good 


At that time flowers and rustic fancies were all the 
rage ; a breath of spring had inspired the fashion, 
which was, indeed, sorely in need of rejuvenation and 
deliverance from the increasingly cumbersome and 
heavy extravagances of the last ten years. It was a 
complete transformation, but, as we have said, it did 
not cost a penny the less. 

In May and June of 1781 the Grand-Duke of 
Russia, afterwards Paul L, made a journey to Paris 
with his wife, under the name of the Comte and 
Comtesse du Nord, and their visit offered a pretext 
for holding festivities at Court in their honour. 

The Grand-Duchess ordered her dresses from Mile. 
Rose, and commissioned the Baroness Oberkirch to 
superintend their making. She alludes to this in the 
following passage of her memoirs, in which we find 
once more the impression made by Mile. Bertin upon 
those who visited her establishment, and one of those 
repartees so characteristic of the proprietress of the 
" Grand- Mogol." Mme. Oberkirch writes on May 17 : 
" According to the orders of the Grand-Duchess, I 
called on Mile. Rose Bertin, the Queen's celebrated 
dressmaker, to inquire if her dresses were ready. 
The whole establishment was at work upon them ; 
damasks, dauphines, figured satins, brocades, and- 
lace, were scattered in every direction. The Court' 
ladies came to inspect them out of curiosity, but it 
was forbidden to imitate any of the models until 
they had been worn by the Princess. Mile. Bertin 
seemed to me an extraordinary person, full of 


her own importance, and treating Princesses as her 

" A story is told that a lady from the provinces 
came to order a head-dress for her presentation ; she 
wanted something new. Mile. Bertin looked her 
coolly up and down, and, apparently satisfied with 
this scrutiny, turned to one of her young ladies, and 
said majestically : * Show madam the result of my 
last collaboration with Her Majesty.' " 

The ball in honour of the Grand-Duchess of Russia 
was given on June 8, but the presentation took place 
on May 20. Mme. Oberkirch tells us that ''the 
Grand-Duchess was very richly dressed that day in 
a state costume of brocade bordered with pearls, over 
a pannier six yards wide. She wore the most beautiful 
jewels that can be imagined." 

The description of the dress worn by Marie- Antoi- 
nette on the day of the ball is preserved for us by the 
Marquis de Valfons who says in his " Souvenirs " : 

"The Queen was dressed in the costume of Gabrielle 
d'Estrde — a black hat with white feathers, a mass of 
heron's plumes held by four diamonds and a diamond 
band, fastened with the diamond called Pitt, worth 
two millions ; a stomacher of diamonds, and a diamond 
belt over a dress of white silver gauze, powdered with 
paillettes^ and ruchings of gold studded with diamonds." 

Mme. Oberkirch tells us that two days before she 
tried on, meaning to wear it at the ball, " something 
very fashionable, but rather uncomfortable : little flat 
bottles curved to the shape of the head, holding a drop 


of water to moisten the stalks of the natural jflowers 
and keep them fresh in the coiffure. It was not 
always successful, but when it could be managed it 
was charming. Spring on the head in the midst of 
snow-white powder produced an unequalled effect." 

The effect must indeed have been very graceful ; 
flowers being the fashion, some ingenious device was 
necessary to keep them fresh, when the flowers of 
Joseph Wengel were not used. 

A certain Joseph Wengel had lately put artificial 
flowers on the market ; he had first got the idea from 
Italy, where they were made by the nuns for the 
decoration of the altar. Until that time natural 
flowers had been almost solely used for the adorn- 
ment of ladies. It was therefore an innovation of 
which Rose and her rivals hastened to take advantage. 

A very curious collection of patterns of the dresses 
worn by the Queen in the year 1782 is preserved in 
the National Archives. The brothers Goncourt speak 
of it as follows in their ^' Histoire de Marie- 

" The Archives of the Empire possess a curious 
volume bearing the following inscription upon its 
cover of green parchment : * Mme. la Comtesse d'Ossun : 
Garde-robe des Atours de la Reine. Gazette pour 
I'Ann^e 1782.' It contains patterns of the dresses 
worn by the Queen from 1782 to 1784 stuck on 
white paper with red wafers. It is like a palette of 
pale colours youthful and gay ; their brightness, 
youth, and gaiety, are all the more noticeable when we 


compare them with the dead leaf, carmelite brown, 
and other almost Jansenistic colours of the dresses 
worn by Mme. Elizabeth, which we find in another 
register. Dainty relics, appealing to the eye, in 
which a painter might find enough to reconstruct the 
Queen's costume on any given day, or even at any 
given hour of her life ! He would only have to glance 
through the divisions of the book : Dresses on the large 
•pannier, Dresses on the small pannier, Turkish dresses^ 
Levites, English dresses^ and state dress of taffeta ; 
chief provinces of the kingdom divided between Mme. 
Bertin, trimming the costumes of ceremony for 
Easter ; Mme. Lenormand, trimming the Turkish 
dresses of the shade called Paris mud with em- 
broideries of Spanish jasmine ; and Romand, and 
Barbier, and Pompee, working and manipulating in 
blue, white, pink, and pearl-grey, sometimes powered 
with gold sequins, the costumes for Versailles and 
Marly, which were brought to the Queen every 
morning in great wrappings of taffeta." 

We have tried to discover what was the exact 
share of Mile. Bertin in this collection, which 
mentions ninety-seven costumes, and consisted of 
eighty-nine patterns, of which seventy-eight have 
been preserved. The last mentioned belonged to the 
summer of 1784. But the way in which the register 
was kept is rather unsatisfactory, and is lacking in 
method. The name of the dressmaker is mentioned 
in most cases, but that of the modiste less frequently ; 
only occasionally is there any indication that such 


and such a costume was trimmed by Mme. Pompee 
or Mile. Bertin. The name of the former is mentioned 
once, and that of the latter six times ; but this does 
not mean that Rose Bertin only trimmed six dresses 
for the royal wardrobe in two years, namely : a state 
dress for Easter in white satin ; a brown silk levite 
embroidered with small flowers ; a dress on the small 
pannier of white silk gauze ; a white state dress 
trimmed with sweet peas ; a white Turkish dress 
trimmed with sweet peas; and coat of wine-coloured 

This register seems to us like a herbal, and the 
patterns like pressed flowers which have kept their 
fresh colouring in despite o£ time. By its aid we can 
evoke an image of the Queen in the days of her 
happiness, surrounded by affection and admiration, 
happy in the luxury of Versailles and the charm of 
Trianon, her hands stroking the soft texture of these 
delicate fabrics, and an image of other industrious 
hands fixing, with skilful needle, flowers, ruchings, 
garlands, pearls, and embroideries, upon all these 
shimmering staffs, in the disorder of a busy workroom 
from which dazzling marvels will presently emerge. 

No wearer of a crown or bearer of an illustrious 
name could escape a visit to Mile. Rose. 

The voyage of the Comtesse du Nord to Paris, and 
her visits to the Rue Saint- Honore, made Mile. Bertin 
the fashion in Russian society. Princess Tcherbinine, 
Princess Baratinsky, wife of the Ambassador, and 
Baroness Benekendorf sent her orders. x\mong those 


of the latter were two Russian costumes, one of blue 
satin worth 240 livres, and the other of blue and 
silver cloth worth 420 livres. 

These Russian costumes were cheap compared with 
the presentation robes which Rose Bertin supplied to 
the great ladies who were to appear before the Royal 
Family for the first time. One of these dresses made 
for the Vicomtesse de Polastron, on December 2, 1780, 
cost 3,090 livres. Towards the end of August, 1782, 
Rose delivered to her the costume of a priestess 
which cost 2,434 livres, and certain alterations made 
a few days later to the same dress cost 1,150 livres. 

In this year of 1782 the modistes, always on the 
watch for topical novelties to retain their importance 
and their profitable influence over women, could think 
o£ nothing better than to start a fashion for the 
chapeau a la Marlborough, because the Queen was 
heard one day singing the popular song of Marl- 
borough. At that time bonnets a la Religieuse were 
still in fashion, and one of these cost 18 livres. 

In the year 1783 experiments in aeronautics 
brought in the fashions in hairdressing called the 
Ballon, a la Mongoljier^ an Globe de Paphos^ and au 
Globe de Robert. The success of the " Mariage de 
Figaro " gave rise to fashions a la Cherubin, d la 
Suzan7ie, smd a la Basile. 

Rulers of fashions are always eager to avail them- 
selves of successful plays in naming their novelties. 
Thus, "La Veuve du Malabar," by Lemierre, in 1780 ; 
" Les Amours," by Bayard de Monvel, in 1786 ; " La 


Brouette du Vinaigrier," by Mercier, in 1787 ; and 
" Tartare," by Beaumarchais, all stood sponsors to 
the novelties of the season. 

On October 13, 1783, it is reported in the 
" Memoires Secrets" : " Hats a la Caisse d'Escompte 
are already on the market. These hats have no 
crowns. All the women have hastened to adopt 
this new fashion, which is a cruel pun against the 
directors." (" Crowns of hats " happen to be synony- 
mous with ''funds" in French, hence the pun.) 

A few years ago, after a celebrated krach, these 
hats reappeared. They were called chapeaux Comptoir 
(CEscompte. Several of our contemporaries have worn 
them. Indeed, nothing is new under the sun, in 
fashions as in other things ; it is but the turn of the 
wheel. "New things are only those which have 
been forgotten," as Rose Bertin said very truly one 
day to Marie-Antoinette. 

This fashion had only a relatively small and 
restricted vogue. That which made the most sensa- 
tion outside France was the fashion a la Marlhorough. 

" The Duchess of Marlborough, granddaughter of 
the famous General of that name, which was adopted 
by her husband . . . made a collection of all the 
songs, plays, farces, puns, and epigrams, relating to 
him."* But she was not satisfied with this. "At 
the same time she commissioned Mile. Bertin to send 
her samples of all the fashions a la Marlborough, 
both for men and women." f 

'■^' Bachaumont, " Memoires Secrets," 1783 (August 14). 
t Ibid, 


The King rarely paid attention to the Qaeens 
costumes, but one day in May, 1783, he could not 
refrain from making fun of an innovation which 
seemed to him more ridiculous than usual. The 
anecdote is told as follows : '' Within the last few 
days, on returning from the chase, the King had his 
hair dressed in a chignon, such as women wear, and 
went to visit the Queen. Her Majesty burst out 
laughing, and asked the meaning of this masquerade, 
and whether the carnival had come again. ' Do you 
think it ugly ?* asked her royal husband. ' It is 
a fashion I wish to set ; I have never started one 
yet.' ' Ah, Sire, beware of that one — it is frightful !' 
replied Her Majesty. ' But, madam,' he replied, * we 
men must find some way of doing our hair to distin- 
guish us from women ; you have robbed us of the 
plumet, the chapeau, the cadenette^ the queue, and now 
you have taken the cadogan, w^hich was all we had 
left, and which I think very unbecoming to women.' 
The Queen grasped his meaning, and, being always 
anxious to please the King above all things, imme- 
diately gave orders that her cadoga7is should be 
unplaited, and had her hair dressed in a chignon. 
It is probable that this really ridiculous fashion, 
which has become the rage in Paris, will be banished 
by the King's joke."* 

This was a defeat for Leonard, and not for Rose 
Bertin. It is, however, rather difficult to realize that 
Louis XVI. can have driven side by side with the 
* Bachaumont, " Mcmoires Secrets," 1783 (August 14). 


Abbe Edgeworth with his hair dressed in a chignon 
like a woman. Yet it is a positive fact, and well in 
keeping with the character of the King, who did not 
like to thwart the Queen even in her most regrettable 
whims and wildest extravagance. 

The cost of dress had, indeed, become so excessive 
that it caused what has since been called krachs in 
the best-known families and among merchants whose 
credit appeared to be most solid. The " Correspon- 
dance Litteraire" tells us that in September, 1782, 
" a dealer in fashions, who was supposed to have an 
income of 50,000 or 60,000 livres, risks losing 30,000 
by the bankruptcy of the Prince de Guemene." We 
learn from the same source that, in relating this 
disaster to his friends of the Palais-Royal, he said : 
^' Here am I reduced to living like a private 

The bankruptcy of the Prince de Guemene caused 
a great sensation. It is said to have amounted to 
more than 35,000,000 livres. Rose Bertin lost by 
it, but not so heavily as her unfortunate colleague. 
" Three thousand creditors appeared upon the list of 
the ' Most Serene Swindler,' as the Marquis de la 
Vaiette called him."* 

There were husbands who paid and said nothing, 

and husbands who said nothing and did not pay, 

which was most disastrous for the dealers. But as 

ever since the world began there have been husbands 

of all kinds, there were some who paid but grumbled 

* " Memoires de la Vicoratesse de Pars. 



and argued over the bills. M. de Toulongeon was 
one of these,* This M. de Toulongeon had married 
a Mile. d'Aubigne, who wished to be in the swim, 
and had her clothes made by the most fashionable 
dressmakers in Paris. When he remarked that the 
bill was — well, a bit stiff, Mile. Bertin replied : " Oh ! 
is Yernet paid only according to the cost of his 
canvas and colours ?" 

Such a comparison might serve to justify any 
extortion. At that time pictures by the masters had 
their value and fetched the highest prices. A well- 
known Greuze, " L'Accordee de Village/' was sold in 
1782 for 16,650 livres. Two pictures by the said 
Yernet at the same sale, that of the Marquis de 
Menar, " A Storm on the Seashore," and a land- 
scape embellished by architecture, mountains, distant 
horizons, etc., fetched 6,621 livres. Greuze led the 
market, but Yernet fetched a very good price. 

The establishment in the Rue Saint-Honore had no 
real branches, but the fashion- dealers in the provinces 
bought novelties from Mile. Bertin to display in their 
showrooms. Among her customers was a certain 
Thdvenard, who had a shop at Dijon. Thevenard had 
a friend called Bardel, who was a wholesale ribbon- 
dealer in the Rue de TArbre Sec, and one of those 
who supplied Rose Bertin. This Thevenard ended 
his life as an emigre. He had enlisted in Conde's 
army, and died in the field-hospital of Schifferstadt 
on August 20, 1793. 

* " Melanges de Mme. Necker.'' 


The fashion then inclined to moyens honneis en pre- 
tressBy hats boue de Paris, and dresses a la Religieuse^ 
but many other articles are mentioned in the ledgers 
of the Maison Bertin in 1783. Rose Bertin delivered 
to the Princesse de Rochefort " painted Chinese fans 
of sandalwood " ; to the Comtesse de Vergennes " a 
sword knot of a Mar^chal de France" and ^'a 
sword-knot in dark blue stones inlaid with silver." 
Such things especially were to be found in the fashion 
shops. The name of a celebrated actress, Mile. Sinvalle, 
of the Comedie Fran^aise, also appears in these ledgers. 
It will perhaps be interesting to note w^hat a great 
actress of that time spent on her hats. The price of a 
straw hat a la Religieuse which she chose in Mile. 
Bertin's showroom cost 33 livres ; a pouf of em- 
broidered silk gauze cost 42 livres ; and a pouf 
trimmed with a wreath of pink larkspur, certainly 
not the least charming of the three, cost 54 livres. 

The Chevalier de Boufflers, wishing to buy a 
present for New Year's Day in 1784, purchased a 
rather curious basket from Mile. Bertin, a description 
of which is found in her writings ; the price of it was 
360 livres. It was ^' a basket au globe* in blue and 
white striped pekin, tied at the base with black and 
pink ribbon, a second row of ribbon trimmed with 
blonde on one side closing with a ribbon drawstring ; 
the said basket trimmed inside with five bouquets of 

* Globes, or aerostats, were used as motifs in decoration. 
It was the fashion of the day. They were to be found 
everywhere, on fans, snuff-boxes, etc. 


different flowers and wreaths ; a wax baby dressed 
in a chemise o£ gauze trimmed with blonde lace and 
a wreath of pomegranate blossom " — 360 livres for a 
few flowers and a wax doll in a basket ! Perhaps 
people did not haggle over the price because they did 
not pay ; this bill for 360 livres was still due to the 
estate of Rose Bertin in 1813. 

The winter of 1784 was extremely severe. The 
ground was covered with snow for four months, and 
the people sufl'ered indescribable misery. The King 
and Queen set an example of charity which was 
followed by all. People economized on luxuries to 
help those who sufl'ered most from the cold. In that 
time of distress, furbelows, huge hats, and flowing 
ribbons, would have been in bad taste. Rose invented 
more sober head -gear than usual ; she created the 
bonnet en soeur grisCy which seems to have sold very 
well ; she charged 27 livres for it, and it was a success 
in the provinces as well as in Paris. 

Rose had now reached the summit of her career ; 
her success was undisputed and indisputable. 

Mme. de Campels, daughter of Mme. de Monta- 
lembert, mentions in her correspondence that once in 
her childhood she went with her mother to Mile. 
Berlin's establishment, and that in 1784 she was in 
a most " flourishing " condition and quite wealthy. 

Rose Bertin had left the Rue Saint- Honor^ for the 
Rue de Richelieu, a house belonging to M. de Maussion, 
as appears from the interminable proceedings against 
the demoiselle Picot, upon which is written : " The 


year 1784, ninth clay, at the request of the demoiselle 
Marie-Jeanne Bertin, spinster, dealer in fashions in 
Paris, residing Rue de Richelieu, who appeals against a 
sentence given in favour of Mile. Picot on January 7."* 
This house in the Rue Richelieu stood upon the site 
where No. 10 now stands. 

In the month of May, 1784, the Baroness Ober- 
kirch required a dress for her presentation to the 
Queen, and naturally went to Mile. Rose, whom she 
used formerly to visit with Princess Dorothy of 
Wlirtemberg. Her account will give us some idea 
of the business done by our modiste, now at the 
height of her reputation : 

" I had not been to Mile. Bertin since my return, 
and everyone was talking of her marvels. She was 
more the rage than ever. There was a rush for her 
bonnets. She showed me thirty at least that day, all 
different, attending to me herself, which was no small 
favour. There was a little Bohemian hat, turned up 
in a way which was simply perfect, copied from a 
model given by a lady of that nationality ; all Paris 
had gone mad over it. It had an aigrette and 
embroidery, like the Steinkerque of our forefathers. 
The effect was really very uncommon and original. 
But the Queen would have none of it ; she said she 
was not young enough to wear i^, thus setting a 
premature example to all the superannuated coquettes 
who persist in suppressing the almanac, but forget 

* Archives Nationales, Serie V^. Grande Chancellerie et 
Conseil, Prevute de rHotel. 


that they cannot suppress their faces, which are often 
indiscreet " — a very judicious reflection which proves 
the good sense of Baroness Oberkirch. 

" I owed the favours of Mile. Bertin," she con- 
tinues, " to the memory of Mme. la Comtesse du 
Nord, whose custom she had kept. She had her 
own portrait in her showroom besides that of the 
Queen and other royalties who honoured her with 
their protection. The lady's chatter was very 
amusing ; it was a mixture of hauteur and baseness 
which bordered on impertinence if one gave her an 
inch, and became insolent unless she was kept strictly 
in her place. The Queen, with her usual kindness, 
allowed her a familiarity of which she took advan- 
tage, and which, she thought, gave her a right to 
assume airs of importance." 

It is evident that, in spite of her efforts to please, 
Rose Bertin was not much of a favourite with 
Baroness Oberkirch. On leaving Rose the latter 
called " at Baulard's, dealer in fashions and finery. 
He and Alexandrine used to be the most celebrated, 
but Mile. Bertin has dethroned them. She came 
from the Quai de Gesores, where she had dwelt so 
long in obscurity, to triumph over her rivals and 
make them all play second fiddle. Yet Baulard had 
the best name fcr mantles ; he trimmed them with 
exquisite taste. He kept me for more than an hour 
while he held forth against Mile. Bertin, who put on 
the airs of a Duchess, and was not even a bourgeoise.^' 

Baulard triumphed over Mile. Bertin on that 


occasion, for the Baroness ordered her presentation 
dress from him because his rival had kept her waiting 
too long. 

There is a portrait of Rose Bertin at that date, 
engraved in colours, by Jainnet, from a picture by 
L. Trinquesse, an artist who had a certain celebrity. 
This portrait has become rather rare ; the Biblio- 
theque Nationale, the Bibliotheque d' Abbeville, and 
the Mus6e des Arts, have each a copy. A proof 
without the engraver's signature was sold in Feb- 
ruary, 1881, for 351 francs. It represents Mile. 
Bertin nearly full-face, wearing a cap, her shoulders 
covered with a fichu knotted in front. In this por- 
trait Mile. Bertin appears to be about forty ; the 
date might therefore be 1784 or 1785. She has a 
look of determination which is not surprising, but 
we look in vain for the beauty sometimes attributed 
to her. Rose may have been pretty at sixteen, when 
she used to take home the goods supplied by Mile. 
Pagelle to the great ladies of the Faubourg Saint- 
Germain ; but increasing stoutness had effaced what 
graceful lines she may have possessed. 

As to the engraver, he had attained celebrity, not 
only in his profession, but also by an unfortunate 
attempt at aeronautics which he made with Abbe 
Miollan in the Jardin du Luxembourg on July 11, 
1784. On that day he was almost torn to pieces by 
the furious mob, which had waited in the broiling sun 
for the ascent of the balloon, which had been widely 
advertised. It rose about half an inch, and finally split 


and had to be abandoned. After this fiasco Miollan 
and Jainnet became the laughing-stock of the public, 
and had " constantly to see themselves hooted and 
jeered at in the cruellest way in the booths of every 
fair, in songs and caricatures of all kinds."'"''" 

For all that, Jainnet was an engraver of great 
talent, worthy to popularize the work of the painter 

We have seen how the Queen refused the little 
Bohemian hat made for her by Mile. Rose, on the 
pretext that it was too young for her. She was then 
twenty-nine, and the idea that her youth was over 
took possession of her mind. She sent for Rose 
Bertin on purpose to tell her " that she would be 
thirty in November ; and, though no one was likely 
to remind her of it, she was determined to exclude 
from her dress such ornaments as were only suitable 
to extreme youth, and therefore she would no longer 
wear feathers or flowers." 

"It is known also that the etiquette of dress is 

changed : the Queen will have no more pierrotSy 

chemises^ redingotes^ polonaises^ or Uvites^ Turkish 

or Circassian dresses ; sober dresses with pleats are 

now to be worn ; the Princesses have been requested 

to discard all others for visits of ceremony, and the 

Maid of Honour is to inform all ladies presenting 

themselves in any other costume, that they cannot 

be admitted thus without a special permission from 

Her Highness, which she will go and ask for."| 

* '' Correspondance Litteraire,'' t. xiv. 

f " Correspondance Secrete,'' 27 F^vrier, 1785. 


Did all this diminish the expense ? Certainly not. 
The Queen and all the ladies of her suite were swept 
away by the current. 

Though Marie- Antoinette economized for a brief 
space in the severe winter of 1784 in order to relieve 
the poor, who suffered excessively from the cold, 
following the example of Louis XVL, to whom a 
pyramid of snow was raised before the gate of the 
Louvre, with inscriptions celebrating his " august 
benevolence," she soon resumed her luxurious tastes, 
with all the necessary expenditure. 

From the time of Calonne's entrance into office 
the budget for the Queen s dress increased. In 1785 
she overstepped her allowance of 120,000 livres to 
the extent of 138,000 livres, for which the Comtesse 
d'Ossun, her Lady of the Wardrobe, had to request 
a special grant.* In the previous year the supple- 
mentary grant had been only 97,652 livres. 

In 1785 Rose Bertin's share was 27,597 livres as 
a dealer in fashions, and 4,350 livres for supplying 
lace. But though she had the largest share, she was 
not without competitors : Dame Pomp^e carried off 
5,527 livres, Demoiselle Mouillard 885 livres, and 
Dame ISToel 604 livres. There was another creditor 
who supplied English riding habits ; he was a specialist, 
a tailor called Smith; in 1785 the bill he presented 
amounted to 4,097 livres. t 

All this did not escape the attention of agitators 
and pamphleteers on the watch for anything which 

* Archives Nationales, O^, 3,792. \ Ibid, 


could help to undermine an order rather worn out 
than intrinsically bad. 

Th^veneau de Morande, among others, does not hide 
his feelings ujDon the pernicious influence of Rose 
Bertin, in relating an incident which occurred at the 
time when Calonne was Minister of Finance, an office 
which he held from November 3, 1783 until April, 

"We have another Minister," he says, " who will 
not yield to Calonne nor to the Baron de Breteuil, if 
not in administrative capacity, at least in obstinacy with 
regard to the affairs of her ministry, in which this high 
official in petiticoats will never suffer any contradiction. 

*' This minister is Mile. Bertin, the leading fashion- 
dealer in Paris, who has written up over her establish- 
ment, in huge letters, that she has the honour of pro- 
viding the Court with hats and dresses, especially 
Marie- Antoinette. Nothing can equal the impertinence 
and arrogance of this lady since she has been admitted 
to intimacy with the Queen, to whom she lays down 
the law ... in the name of Fashion, whose most 
fervent priestess she proclaims herself. 

" The extravagant notions and far-fetched combina- 
tions of Mile. Bertin have been the cause of enormous 
expenses, which Marie- Antoinette has not succeeded 
in concealing, and which the King has questioned and 
blamed with all the vehemence of a good husband, 
careful of his revenues, and by no means anxious to 
see them squandered on frills and feathers. The 
Queen, advised by Mme. de Polignac and the Prin- 


Tu fuce I'Mge 15 


cesse Lamballe, held out for the payment o£ Mile. 
Bertin's bills, but she had great difficulty in obtaining 
it. Calonne was employed in these great negotiations, 
and as his devotion to Marie- Antoinette is well known, 
when he urged the necessity of paying Mile. Bertin's 
bill, the King replied : 

" ' Parbleu ! why don t you pay them out of your 
funds ? Worthy Minister of our Finances, the silly 
details of the Queen's dressmaker's bill would look 
well in the archives of your Ministry!* 

** This ironical answer was misunderstood, or 
purposely misinterpreted, by Calonne, who im- 
mediately gave the Queen an order for 50,000 livres 
upon the collectors of the salt-tax. Mile. Bertin has 
been paid for her important labours, and her visits to 
Trianon and Versailles have become more frequent 
than ever." 

It is interesting to note that, if the cost of Mile. 
Bertin's ministrations at Court amounted to fabulous 
sums, her prices were not always so exaggerated. 
Though we have seen the price of a head-dress 
amount to 200 livres, Mile. Bertin had other customers, 
not disdained, to whom she presented more modest 
accounts. The Baron Tillette de Clermont-Tonnerre 
has found the bill of a certain Pecquerie, a carrier 
between Abbeville and Paris, which furnishes con- 
clusive proof of this. The daughter of the gendarme 
Nicolas Bertin had, indeed, a faithful customer in her 
native town, called Mile, de Yillerre. 

It was evidently impossible to follow the fashion 


and be well dressed in a small town like the capital 
of Ponthieu at the end of the eighteenth century ; the 
forty-two miles which separated it from Paris were 
not so easily covered as they are to-day. But people 
in the provinces were just as anxious as anywhere 
else to cut a good figure in the society which they 
frequented ; every lady wished to be as well dressed 
as her neis^hbours, and feared the tattle of idle tono'ues 
eager to criticize and talk scandal to pass away the 
time. Nothing could prevent them from wagging, 
but let it be out of jealousy rather than contempt. 
That at least is a kind of triumph. As they could 
not come to Paris several times a year to renew their 
wardrobes, at the beginning of each season, our 
grandmothers had recourse to the services of a carrier 
whose cart came and went regularly upon the royal 
highway of Calais, between Abbeville and the capital, 
and this important person was charged with the most 
various, and sometimes the most unexpected, com- 
missions. But generally, as we shall see by the 
account rendered to Mile, de Yillerre by Pecquerie, 
which we think curious enough to be given in full, 
the demand was for feminine articles of toilette : 

Account of Commissions done for Mlle. de Vilerre 

IN Paris. 

Livres. s. 
Two pots of rouge ... ... ... ... ... 6 

Bill paid to Mlle. Bertin ... 

Ointment from M. Cadet ... 

Bill paid to M. Thiercelin... 

A pair of shoes at the Cadran Bleu 









Twelve boxes of grainne de vie 

j\ ii9,ir-neL ■•• ... ... ... ... 

A pair of shoes from M. Degousse 

Two yards and a half of taffeta at 7 1. 10 s. 

For a case ... 

Franking a letter ... 

Carriage of letter . . . 

Carriage of case to the stage-coach from Mile 

Bertin's ... 
One pound of brown paste 
Bill paid to Mile. Bertin ... 
A pair of sabots from the Cadran Bleu 
Two sticks of pomade at 12 s. 
A needle-case with silver top 
A piece oi armoism 

Bill paid to Mile. Paris 

Given to the maid at the Cadran Bleu 
For dyeing of two mantles 

-*- XJ.J.^^^X ••• «•• ••• ••• 

A muslin fichu 

Six pairs of stockings owing from me 
Balance ... 

Livres s. 



























I acknowledge receipt of the above sum at Abbeville, 
October 8, 1784. 

(Signed) Pecgiuerie. 

The things made in Rose's workshops were only 
destined to live a day. Fashion was so fickle that 
scarcely were they put on before a new invention 
made them out of date, and they would soon have 


been buried in oblivion if painting had not preserved 
some of these ephemeral works, and immortalized 
these frivolous and fragile creations. The Musee de 
Versailles in particular contains several portraits of 
ladies who were Rose Bertin's customers, and who 
were painted in dresses and head-dresses made in her 

The fancy pouf worn by Louise- Marie- Adelaide de 
Bourbon, Duchesse d'Orleans, in the picture painted 
by Mme. Yigee-Lebrun in 1779, is not to be 
attributed to Rose Bertin. It is the artist's own 
arrangment, for she preferred to pose her models 
according to her own taste and pleasure — that is, 
unaffectedly and without cosmetics, as naturally and 
with as much truth to life as the vanity and exigence 
of her clients would permit, princely clients who may 
have made her fortune, though she would certainly 
have made her reputation without their aid. 

Besides this portrait of a faithful customer of Rose 
Bertin, which does not enlighten us much upon her 
handiwork, the galleries of Versailles contain several 
portraits of Marie-Antoinette which show us head- 
dresses and costumes worn by the Queen, which came 
from the workrooms of Mile. Rose. 

One of these was painted in 1785 by the Swedish 
painter Wertmuller ; it was reproduced by Battaille. 
It cannot be said to flatter the Queen ; her head-dress 
of blue ribbons and feathers is too heavy for her face, 
and the Swedish artist has posed her most ungracefully 
between her two children, whose attitudes make them 


look like little puppets. In spite of the background 
showing the leafy shades of Versailles and the 
Temple of Love, Marie- Antoinette does not appear in 
that frame of light and grace with which it pleases 
our imagination to surround her ; WertmuUer's work 
is heavy, and so is that of Rose Bertin which he 

The painting was severely judged by the Queen 
herself when it was exhibited in the Salon in 1785. 
" Is it possible," we read in the ** Memoires Secrets," 
*' that a man of such talent as M. Wertmuller, destined 
to take the place of first painter to the King of Sweden, 
should be so lacking in grace and majesty ? They 
say that when the Queen entered the Salon she did 
not recognize herself, and exclaimed : ' What ! is 
that really meant for me ?' " 

There was such a constant demand for novelty 
that it was inevitable that, among such quantities, 
some of the modiste's creations should be less 
original than others, or, worse still, unbecoming to 
her customers. But Marie-Antoinette was faithful 
to her, and it was the order of the day to admire her 
inventions at all costs. Without this powerful pro- 
tection she might have learnt that fashion is incon- 
stant, and though it may be the thing to get one's 
clothes from one place one year, some other place will 
be just as fashionable the year after ; and the Queen's 
modiste had certainly no lack of rivals in the town. 
The names of some of them have come down to us. 
In 1785 the best known were Mile. Fredin, who had 


a shop in the Rue de la Ferronnerie, with a sign 
'' I'Echarpe d'Or " ; and Mile. Quentin, whose estab- 
lishment was in the Rue de Clery. From 1784 and 
onwards the Princesse de Conti dealt with Richard, 
Rue du Bac, who kept her custom for many years. 
It seems strange that the daughter-in-law of the 
Dowager Princesse de Conti should not have patronized 
the modiste whose initial success was certainly due 
to the kindness of her mother-in-law. Mile. Bertin's 
character had something to do with it, and the 
cavalier manner in which she treated a certain very 
great lady, whose name is not mentioned in the 
memoirs of that day, though they speak of the 
sensation caused by the incident, leads us to believe 
that the lady in question was the Princess. 

Besides the great fashion-dealers Beaulard, Richard, 
Fredin, Quentin, Picot — Rose's famous enemy — and 
the Demoiselle Mouillard, femme Angier^ who sup- 
plied the royal children,'^' for whom Mile. Bertin only 
worked occasionally, there were numerous fashion 
shops in the Palais-Royal quarter, and some in the 
Palais-Royal itself. 

In 1789 two ladies, Aymez and Degouste, had a 
shop in the wooden gallery No. 199, and having 
quarrelled — tempers were bad in the world of 
fashion plates — the Demoiselle Degouste left Dame 
Aymez, and took up her quarters at No. 220 in the 
same gallery. She was still there two years later, 
when her former partner brought proceedings against 
* Archives Nationals, Series R^ i05 ; KK. 373 ; K. 529. 


her for throwing ink at her shop and window display. 
But in spite of all this rivalry business flourished 
with the Queen's modiste, and her establishment was 
always the most crowded in Paris. 

At the beginning of the year 1785 she had a great 
stroke of luck. One day the Spanish Ambassador's 
carriage stopped before her door, and the Comte de 
Aranda in person alighted. He had come to give 
her the order for the entire trousseau of the Princess 
of Portugal. The Journal Politique^ or Gazette des 
Gazettes^ published at Bouillon, gave the following 
information in the issue of Februarv 21 : 

" There is now on view at the King's goldsmith's, 
in the Carrousel, the silver-gilt toilette set destined for 
the Princess of Portugal, who is about to marry the 
Infante Dom Gabriel ; it is extremely rich and in 
exquisite taste. We may judge of the number and 
beauty of the dresses and ornaments for the same 
Princess which Mile. Bertin has been commissioned 
to make, and which it is said will cost more than 
100,000 livres. This magnificent wedding outfit and 
the toilette set have been ordered by the Comte de 
Aranda, who has himself superintended the carrying 
out of his orders." 

" Do you see ? Do you understand ?" said the 
Comte de Aranda to Rose Bertin, as he gave her the 
necessary explanations. '^ Do you see ? Do you 
understand ?" he repeated every moment. The 
unfortunate Ambassador had contracted the aggra- 
vating habit of 2)lanting his everlasting " Do you 



see ? Do you understand ?" at the end of every 

We have seen that at that date Rose Bertin's 
busmess premises were in the Rue Saint-Honore. 
A judf^ment given at the Chatelet, April 21, 1785, 
ordering the estate d'Escars to pay a considerable 
sum which was due to Rose Bertin, specifies that on 
March 21, 1785, she was carrying on her business in 
the Rue de Richelieu. 

Among other things, Quaker bonnets came into 
fashion at that time, and had a great success towards 
the end of that year. Rose Bertin had sold Quaker 
bonnets to the Marquise de Praidel, Mme. de 
Dampierre, and to a Spaniard, the Marquesa de 
PalasioB. That year she also made the entire 
trousseau of the Infanta Dona Carlotta Joaquina, 
who married Dom Juan of Portugal on June 6. 
After these two royal marriages Rose's reputation 
was unrivalled in Spain and Portugal, as we have 
seen that it was in France, Russia, Sweden, etc. 
Therefore the authors of that time did not ex- 
aggerate when they said that her reputation was 

The year 1785 also saw the triumph of the dress 
a la Suzanne, The part of Suzanne in the " Mariage 
de Figaro" had been played with great success by 
Mile. Contat, and the costume which she wore was 
immediately popularized by fashion. Beaumarchais 
has given a description of it in the edition of his 
play : " Her dress in the four first acts was a white 


jicste with basques, very elegant, a skirt of the same, 
and a toque which our fashion -dealers afterwards 
called d la Suzanne^ Add to this an apron and a 
fichu, replace the toque by a hat d J a Figaro, trimmed 
with flowers, and we have the description of a drawing 
by Watteau of an unknown lady dressed in the 
fashion of 1785. 

Dresses a la Comfesse and hair done a la Cheruhin 
were also inventions inspired by Beaumarchais' play. 

If the Queen's age and the birth of the Dauphin 
on March 25, 1785, induced her to reform her dress, 
yet the expense was not diminished, for at that time 
Calonne had to advance 900,000 livres to pay her 
debts, part of this sum being destined to pay dress 
makers' bills. 

Yet we have seen that at the end of the year 1785 
the Queen had made up her mind to reform her style 
of dress. The beplumed portrait by Wertmuller 
was therefore the last one painted before she came to 
this decision. We must not suppose that a radical 
transformation took place from one day to another, 
nor that all these fine plans were put into execution. 
Plumes were admitted, but they did not appear in 
such profusion as before ; luxury was not attacked, 
but the absurdity of exaggerated fashions. From 
that time head-dresses d la Belle Poule^ en Moulin d 
Vent, or d la Minerve^ were seen no more. This was 
a distinct change, a step towards reason, while waiting 
for the linen bonnets of the Reign of Terror. 

After the treaty of commere with England 


English fashions grew popular in Paris, and dresses 
en redingote had a great vogue. 

The reforms introduced by Marie- Antoinette were 
the subject of all conversation. They were discussed 
in the Palais-Royal, at Versailles — everywhere. They 
were looked upon as an event. " Women of thirty 
are now obliged to renounce plumes, flowers, and 
pink," writes Mme. Oberkirch in her journal on 
February 3, 1786. She had just been present at a 
conversation in the Duchess of Orleans's house, where 
the Queen's reforms had been the only topic. 

From that date velvet poufs were Marie- Antoinette's 
habitual head-dress. They varied in shape and in 
colour to match her dresses. The pictures of Mme. 
Vig^e-Lebrun have preserved their image for us. 
That artist can have had no love for Mile. Bertin's 
art ; she was much too fond of simple draperies and 
graceful negligence, and it must have been against 
her will that she painted the Queen thus decked out 
instead of bareheaded and according to her own 
taste. She succeeded in doing this in the case 
of the Duchesse d' Orleans, but not with Marie- 

We find the following lines in her memoirs : '' I 
could not bear powder — I persuaded the beautiful 
Duchesse de Grammont-Caderousse to let me paint 
her without it (portrait of 1789); her hair was as 
black as ebony ; I parted it on the forehead and 
arranged it in irregular curls. After the sitting, 
which lasted till dinner-time, she went to the theatre 


as she was. Such a pretty woman ought to set the 
fashion ; it spread slowly, but at last became general. 
This reminds me that, when I painted the Queen in 
1786, I begged her to dispense with powder and part 
her hair on the forehead. ' I shall be the last to 
adopt that fashion,' said the Queen, laughing ; ' I will 
not have it said that I invented it to hide my high 
forehead.' " * 

The result may have been very displeasing to 
Mme. Vigee-Lebrun, but it is not so to us. The will 
of Marie-Antoinette forced Mme. Vig6e-Lebrun to 
paint, not fancy portraits, but historical portraits, 
and to depict with her brush the official fashions and 
velvet 'poufs of the Rue de Richelieu. What remark- 
able documents Mme. Vigee-Lebrun would have left 
to posterity if she had sacrificed her artistic tastes, 
and always represented her sitters in their customary 
habiliments ! If, for example, instead of arranging 
the head-dress of the Duchesse d'Orleans to please 
herself, she had painted her with the erection we 
have described, which included a nurse, a parrot, and 
a little negro. 

However, the great artist was obliged to bow to 
the Queen's wishes in spite of her own taste, and 
thus painting was forced to do homage to the talent 
of Rose Bertin, celebrated at the same time by the 
poet Delille in his poem " L' Imagination," the open- 
ing verses of which are also dated 1786. 

The following passage in Canto III. has a thinly 

* " Souvenirs de Mme. Vigee-Lebrun,'" t. i., p. 37. 


veiled allusion to the modiste herself, when, in 
speaking of the fashion, the poet exclaims : 

" La baguette a la main, voyez-la dans Paris, 
Arbitre des succes, des moeurs et des ecrits, 
Exercer son empire elegamment futile; 
Et, tandis qu''oubUant leur rudesse indocile, 
Les metaux les plus durs, Tacier, Tor et Targent, 
Sous mille aspects divers suivent son gout changeant, 
Et la gaze, et le lin, plus fragile merveille, 
Dedaigneux aujourd'' hui des formes de la veille, 
Inconstants comme Pair, et comme lui legers, 
Vont meler notre luxe aux luxes etrangers ; 
Ainsi, de la parure, aimable souveraine. 
Par la mode du moins, la France est encore reine ; 
Et jusqu'au fond du nord portant nos gouts divers, 
Le mannequin despote asservit Tunivers." 

The allusion is transparent. It points to the 
famous doll which Rose Bertin dressed and sent to 
Paris, St. Petersburg, and other towns, to demonstrate 
the latest novelties of her establishment. 

But another passage of Delille's poem more par- 
ticularly celebrates the talents of Mile. Bertin : 

" Dans un am as de tissus precieux 
Quand Bertin fait briller son gout industrieux, 
L'etoffe obeissante en cent formes se joue, 
Se developpe en schall, en ceinture se none ; 
Du pinceau son aiguille emprunte les couleurs, 
Brille de diamants, se nuance de fleurs. 
En longs replis flottants fait ondoyer sa moire, 
Donne un voile a Tamour, un echarpe a la gloire, 
Ou, plus ambitieuse en son brillant essor, 
Sur Paimable Vaudchamp va s'embellir encore." 



iM 1--, Ai.:.::.. > •: 


Delille, while singing the praises of Mile. Bertin, 
finds occasion at the same time of praising the 
charms of the lady whom he had taken for com- 
panion, and in whom we recognize one of the 
modiste's new clients, whom the chances o£ a rather 
stormy life had brought from Lorraine. 

This Jeanne Vaudchamp was born at Saint-Die 
about 1765. She left that town and came to Paris, 
where she found it difficult to gain a living, having 
no other means of earning her bread than by playing 
the guitar. 

" She was doing this one day," says Michaud, 
" adding a doubtless seductive dance to her music, 
between the columns of the Louvre and the fa(^ade 
of Saint-Germain I'Auxerrois, when Delille happened 
to pass that way. It was in 1786. He spoke to 
her, and the next day Jeanne Vaudchamp crossed 
the threshold of the College de France to finish at 
her leisure the conversation with the Academician 
begun the evening before. The conversation was 
renewed before the end of the week. A few days 
later the indefatigable conversationalist returned once 
more, and never came out again, except from time to 
time as from her own house. In that short space 
she had won the freedom of the college : the poet 
had obtained permission to engage her as his house- 
keeper, for he was fairly well off." 

Such was the customer whose name the poet, who 
was called the French Virgil, put side by side with 
that of the modiste of the Rue Richelieu. 


About that time (1786) Mile. Bertin took a 
journey to Brittany, or, at least, she went as far 
as Rennes. 

Nothing particular occurred upon the journey, but 
on her way back she had a travelling companion, a 
young man who had just been appointed sub-lieuten- 
ant in the army of Navarre, then in garrison at 

This young man, just beginning his ca^^eer, and 
on his way to join his regiment, was the Chevalier 
de Chateaubriand ; he relates himself how he journeyed 
from Rennes to Paris tete-a-tete with Rose Bertin. 
He had just arrived from Combourg, and put up at 
the house of a relation at Rennes. " He announced 
joyfully," says Chateaubriand, *' that a lady of his 
acquaintance on her way to Paris had a vacant place 
in her carriage, and that he was sure he could per- 
suade her to let me travel with her." The young 
man had never taken any notice of a woman, except 
his fourth sister, Lucile, of whom he was very fond. 
He painted this sister in a timid attitude, dressed in an 
ill-fitting dress, an iron necklace threaded with brown 
velvet round her neck, and a very dowdy black toque 
on her head. He must have felt extremely awkward 
when he found himself in the company o£ the smart 
Parisian modiste ; indeed, he tells us as much. " I 
accepted," he says, " cursing the officiousness of my 
kinsman. Pie arranged the matter, and introduced 
me to my travelling companion, a dealer in fashions, 
very sprightly and free-and-easy, who burst out 


laughing when she saw me. The carriage came at 
midnight, and we set out. 

" I now found myself in a post-chaise alone with a 
woman at dead of night. I who had never looked at 
a woman without blushing, how could I descend from 
the height of my dreams to this frightful reality ? I 
did not know where I was ; I squeezed myself into 
the corner of the carriage for fear of touching Mile. 
Rose's dress. When she spoke to me, I stammered in 
confusion and could make no answer ; she was obliged 
to pay the postilion and see to everything, for I was 
perfectly useless. At daybreak she stared in fresh 
amazement at the idiot whom she had suffered to be 
foisted upon her. 

^' As the aspect of the landscape changed, and I 
could no longer recognize the dress and accent of the 
Breton peasant, I fell into the deepest dejection, which 
increased the contempt of Mile. Rose. I perceived her 
opinion of me, and this first contact with the world 
made an impression upon me which time has never 
quite effaced. I was born shy, but unashamed ; I 
had the modesty of my age, but not its embarrass- 
ment. When I perceived that my best side made me 
ridiculous, my shyness became an insurmountable 
timidity. I could not say one word ; I felt that I 
had something to hide, and that that something was 
a virtue ; I made up my mind to hide my true self, 
so as to carry my innocence in peace. 

" We were approaching Paris. Coming down from 
Saint-Cyr, I was struck by the width of the roads 


and the regularity of the plantations. Soon we 
reached Versailles ; the orangery with it marble stair- 
cases filled me with wonder. The success of the 
American War had brought back the triumphs of the 
chateau of Louis XIV., the Queen reigned there in 
the splendour of her youth and beauty ; the throne, 
so near its downfall, had never seemed so firm, and I, 
an obscure wayfarer, was destined to outlive this 
pomp, and to see the woods of Trianon as deserted as 
the forests I had just left behind." 

Some day in her retreat at Epinay, Mile. Kose may 
have been forced, in regretful melancholy, to make 
the same reflections as this young man who once 
rode with her along the highways of Brittany. Is 
not all this worthy to be repeated here? It is simple, 
beautiful, and full of poetry. That young man in 
his sensitive soul must have brooded long before he 
wrote these lines in which he analyzes himself with 
as much frankness as there is truth and feeling in his 
description of what he saw ; truly this was a mar- 
vellous idiot ! 

"At last we entered Paris," he continues. " I saw 
mockery on every face, and, like the gentleman from 
Perigord, I thought that everyone was looking at me 
to make fun of me. Mile. Rose drove to the Hotel 
de I'Europe in the Rue du Mail, and made haste to 
get rid of her idiot. I had scarcely got out of the 
carriage, when she said to the porter : ' Give this 
gentleman a room — your servant,' she added, and 


made me an abrupt curtsy. I never saw Mile. Rose 

Rose Bertin, with her abrupt curtsy, little thought 
that she was taking leave of a future Minister of State, 
Ambassador, and peer of France. However, she showed 
some pity for the young provincial, and did not 
forsake him on the spot. " Yet Mile. Rose had pity 
on the idiot ; she had procured my brother's address 
in Rennes, and let him know that I had arrived in 
Paris," says Chateaubriand. 

It must be admitted that Mile. Rose was well 
calculated to overwhelm a young provincial of eighteen 
with shyness. She was born bold and Parisian in her 
wicker cradle at Abbeville. Yet the young man just 
arriving in the capital, with his shy and awkward 
manner, was the rising star still hidden in the mists 
of the horizon, and Rose's star, which had dazzled 
the world from Spain to Russia and from France to 
Portugal^ and still shed upon her the light of an 
undisputed reputation, was in the spring of 1783 on 
the eve of eclipse and very near its fall. 

Rose Bertin began to experience commercial mis- 
fortunes. Mile. Picot had robbed her of some of her 
customers ; yet the Queen still patronized her, and 
it was still the correct thing to employ Her Majesty's 
modiste. Her custom was still large enough to enable 
her to carry on her business with brilliance, if other 
causes had not increased her business difficulties. 
There was still the same coming and going before her 
door, carriages of great ladies still streamed along the 


Rue de Richelieu, and waited long in the neighbour- 
hood of her shop. Mme. Oberkirch writes on March 20, 
1786: *' We saw Mile. Bertin, who condescended" 
— the word is underlined — " to receive us herself. She 
consented to make a bonnet of a new fashion for the 
Dachesse de Bourbon, on condition that she would 
not lend it to anyone." Rose Bertin condescended 
and consented, because she knew very well that in the 
moments of difficulty which lay before her it was 
necessary to show herself amiable and obliging to 
good clients, and the Duchesse de Bourbon was one 
who paid w^ell. 

But though Rose Bertin kept her accounts with 
great care, she was not so vigilant in defending her 
own interests, and took no trouble to recover what 
was due to her.* We find a proof of her negligence 
in the report t of a judgment given in favour of a 
certain Sieur Boullan, a merchant of Brussels, who 
claimed 876 livres 15 s. from Mile. Bertin for 
imitation pearls supplied to her. 

She pleaded that she had only ordered samples, and 
that the goods had only been sent on approval, but 
could not produce the letter which would have proved 
her statement. Yet the case was not unfavourable 
for her, and her opponent defended himself very feebly. 
The Judges perceived that there had been negligence 

*' Collection de M. J. Doucet. Dossier de la succession 
de Rose Bertin (No. 9) ; lettre de Grangeret avocat. 

t Archives Municipales de Paris : Rapports d'Arbitres, 
carton 15. 


on both sides, and several times summoned the parties 
to appear before them for conciliation. The Sieur 
Bouvier, representing Boullan, did not fail to put in 
an appearance ; but, says the report, ^^ whether Mile. 
Bertin has Imsiness which prevents her from sparing 
a few moments to attend to the interests of her 
creditors, or whether she has private reasons into 
which we cannot and need not inquire, she has 
constantly refused to appear (.szV;)." The result was 
that the report advised the Judges to give judgment 
against her for 700 livres, in favour of Boullan, the 
amount of his claim being reduced on account of the 
defective quality of the pearls supplied by him. 

It was certainly negligent on the part of Mile. 
Bertin not to defend herself better in a case which, 
at first sight, seemed likely to go against her 

Moreover, as we have been able to prove, she took 
no steps to recover what was due to her, and let 
debts accumulate for years, so that many wei^e lost to 
her for ever. 

Thus, on the one hand she kept up an establishment 
which she could not bring herself to curtail. She 
thought herself obliged to keep up a certain 
api^earance at Court The Queen's modiste could not 
carry her own cardboard boxes, nor go to Versailles 
in a hired carriage ; she kept a numerous staff, which 
with her workwomen brought the general expenses 
of her business to a high sum. On the other hand 
the great ladies overwhelmed her with orders, which 


swallowed up her working capital, and paid her badly 
after endless annoyance and apj^lications, and some- 
times did not pay at all. 

This was a dangerous situation, wliich might well 
have led straight to the Court of Bankruptcy. How- 
ever this maybe, it is certain that in January, 1787, a 
rumour spread everywhere that she had sent in her 
bankruptcy papers. The news was received with 
taunts and jeers, to which she was very sensitive. 
People revenged themselves for the snubs and rebuffs 
they had suffered, and, to speak truly, the insolence 
which she had shown on many occasions. Baroness 
Oberkirch heard of it as she was passing through 
Strasburg, and wrote these lines in her memoirs : 
^' Mile. Bertin, so haughty, arrogant, and even insolent, 
who collaborated with Her Majesty ; Mile. Bertin, 
who headed her bills in large type : Supplier of 
Fashions to the Queen — Mile. Bertin has just gone 
bankrupt. It is true that this is no plebeian bankruptcy : 
it is the bankruptcy of a great lady — two millions ! 
That is something for a dealer in chiffons. The 
petites mattresses are in despair ; who can they turn 
to now ? Who will twist a pouff Who will drape a 
toque ? Who will invent a n^^w juste f We are assured 
that Mile. Bertin will yield to these tears, and will 
continue her business. They say also that she has 
been ungrateful to the Queen, and that otherwise Her 
Majesty would not have forsaken her in her mis- 
fortune, although she is occupied with sad things and 
more important interests." 


Well, really ! Mme. Oberkirch did not love Rose 
Bertin ; her manners and absurdities had annoyed her, 
as we know, but certainly the total of her bills had 
something to do with it. Mme. Oberkirch was half 
German, and not exactly prodigal with her money. 

As to what the Baroness says of Rose's ingratitude 
to the Queen, it is not to be explained, and difficult 
to understand what can have occasioned it. The 
Queen may have been " occupied with sad things 
and more important interests " ; the painful business 
of the necklace, still quite recent, may well have 
caused her much anxiety ; but Rose Bertin was 
much too politic and too wide-awake to offend such 
a client, to whom she owed all her other custom. 

Rose Bertin had too often cavalierly treated clients 
whom it would have been wiser to receive with 
deference and thought of the morrow. She had 
offended too many people for her disaster not to be 
a signal for the vengeance of many tongues, only too 
eager to wag at her expense. 

The report of her bankruptcy spread quickly ; as 
we have just seen, it was the theme of gossip in 
Strasburg society, where Mme. Oberkirch happened 
to be at the time. But it is worthy of note that 
Mme. de Campan does not mention it in her 
memoirs, and she had a better oj^portunity than 
anyone of being the first to hear of it. 

On Sunday, January 28, Rose went to Versailles, 
and was not admitted to the Queen's presence. 

Such a piece of news at such a moment was, as 


we may well imagine, immediately spread abroad 
and commented upon. The author of the " Memoires 
Secrets " echoes the popular rumours when he writes : 
" Her Majesty would not see her, and she was refused 
admittance to the royal apartments, which puts the 
last touch to her downfall." 

If Rose Bertin at the befj^innino^ of 1787 had some 
trouble in extricating herself from her difficulties, 
and if the rumour spread that she was bankrupt, 
it is not surprising that it should have been con- 
sidered quite a natural thing. Had not the greatest 
names in Parisian commerce been in the same uncom- 
fortable position ? Had not Pagelle, the fashionable 
modiste at the end of the reign of Louis XY., 
in whose establishment Rose had made her d^but, 
and Gouttiere — the famous Goutti^re — both gone 
bankrupt ? Sensational bankruptcies occurred every 
moment, both in the business world and among the 
nobility. Besides the Prince de Gu^mdn^, whom 
we have already mentioned, the Sieur Bourboulon, 
treasurer to the Comte and Comtesse d'Artois, went 
bankrupt in March, 1787, for a sum of five millions. 
The bankruptcy of the Sieur de Villerange, Intendant 
of Posts and Relays, occurred about the same time ; 
and bankruptcies great and small took place every 
day. Yet in the Archives de la Seine, where all 
the papers relating to the bankruptcies of that time 
are preserved, there is not a single document or the 
slightest trace of the bankruptcy of Rose Bertin. 

What, then, is the meaning of all the fuss about 


the bankruptcy of the great modiste ? Was it a 
trick ? Some of her contemporaries believed that 
it was originated by Rose herself, and that she 
skilfully spread the report in order to draw the 
public attention and recover the sums due to her 
from the Court. 

The Parisian bookseller, I. P. Hardy, who kept a 
journal of the events of the day, wrote on January 31, 
1787, under the title of "Pretended Bankruptcy of 
Mile. Bertin, Dealer in Fashions " : 

" We heard to-day that Mile. Bertin, fashion-dealer 
to the Queen, having a great vogue in the Rue 
Saint-Honor^ where she occupied a magnificent shop 
under the sign of ' La Corbeille Galante,' had given 
in her statement of bankruptcy, according to which, 
if public rumour is to be believed, her debts amounted 
to three millions, two millions of which, it was 
alleged were due to her from a person whom she 
could not name for some indefinite period. It was 
said that this Mile. Bertin was in the habit of making 
some sort of scandal when the credit given by her 
to the Court had reached a certain sum, in order 
to recover some of her money, and that on this 
particular occasion she immediately received an order 
for 400,000 livres upon the Royal Treasury." 

We remark that the bookseller, who probably took 
no interest in chiffons, did not know that Rose 
Bertin had left the Rue Saint-Honore more than three 
years before, and that her sign had never been the 
" Corbeille Galante," but the '^ Grand-Mogol." 


This bankruptcy, therefore, was only a comedy 
which Rose Bertin was quite clever enough to carry 
out. We have just seen that many strongly suspected 
her of it. As to her alleged allusion to the person 
who owed her two millions, given her title of '' modiste 
to the Queen," and the magnitude of the debt, it was 
so transparent that it could not fail to cause the 
public to accuse Marie- Antoinette of having once 
more fallen into wild extravagance. This report, 
reaching the ears of the Queen, explains the other 
report of Rose's disgrace, and why she was refused 

Rose was quite capable of defending herself, and 
would not fear to seek an explanation. Such an 
underhand plot against the Queen would have been 
very risky, and the least the modiste could have got 
out of it would have been the payment and definite 
closing of her account. 

Yet we have proof that she continued to supply 
Marie- Antoinette. She must therefore have suc- 
ceeded in persuading her that she had nothing to do 
with the sensation caused by this aflTair, and that it 
must have have been the work of those whose one 
aim was to discredit the Queen, and from whom she 
nad suffered so much already. 

If Rose Bertin had really been treated by Marie- 
Antoinette as was re^Dorted, there can be no doubt 
that her shop would immediately have been deserted 
by all who had even the most distant connection with 
the Court. 


Yet here are the names of some of the customers 
who frequented it in 1787, with the dates on which 
goods were delivered to them : Baron de Rozay and 
Comtesse de Caradeus, March 13 ; Mme. Augier, 
March 20. It must be noted that Mme. Augier, 
sister of Mme. Campan, was personally attached to 
the Court as Gent! ewoman-in- Waiting. This was 
the same Mme. Augier who threw herself out of 
window in the Tuileries, and was killed, on August 20, 
1792. She had two daughters, afterwards the Mar^chale 
Ney and Mme. de Broc. 

We may also mention the Vicomtesse de Boulain- 
villiers, April 7, and M. des Entelles, April 16, On 
May 5 Rose delivered a presentation dress for the 
Marquise de Nesles to the Baronne de Serant, at the 
Palais-Bourbon, the price of which was 2,000 livres. 
On May 20 she supplied Mile. Dillon with a wedding- 
bonnet costing 39 livres. 

The Marquise de Guitry, June 15 ; the Marquise 
d'Agoult, June 29 ; Comte de Custine, July 22 ; and 
Comtesse de Laage, who was Maid of Honour to the 
Princesse de Lamballe, August 10, also appear on 
Rose's books in 1787. Also the Comtesse de Sparre, 
for whom she made a presentation dress on Septem- 
ber 12, which cost 3,000 livres. 

Finally we will mention an order for a christening 
outfit costing 1,200 livres, given by the Baron de Stael, 
on behalf of the Queen of Sweden. 

Nevertheless her best days were over. 




The public Exchequer was in such a state, owing to 
the bad administration of Calonne, that he received 
orders to resign on April 8, 1787. When Marie- 
Antoinette grasped the situation, she expressed " her 
regret that she had not known earlier of the disastrous 
state of the finances of the kingdom, for then she 
would not have indulged her taste for acquisitions 
and expenditure which she had thought permissible."* 
Her economies in dress began to make themselves 
felt in 1788. In 1787 the Comtesse d'Ossun had 
been obliged to ask for an order of 97,187 livres "to 
add to the sum of 120,000 livres taken from the sum 
allowed for the upkeep of the Queen's Household, to 
make up the sum of 217,187 livres to which the 
expense of the Queen's wardrobe had amounted during 

the year/'t 

In 1788 the supplementary credit required for the 

* " Memoires Secrets." 
t Archives Nationales, 0\ 3,792. 


(Madame Kuj'ale) 

Tu face page l.sO 


purpose was no more than 70,721 livres, and the 
total expenditure on that score was 190,721 livres. 

On August 9 an edict was issued concerning the 
economies to be effected in the expenses of the Crown, 
Article 7 stated : " The reform operated in the Queen's 
Household amounts to 900,000 livres/' 

The situation being thus, it is evident that Rose 
could not continue to draw the same profit from the 
Court as in preceding years. She had to think of 
modifying her own expenditure, though she did not 
immediately feel the consequences of these new 

The dealers of Paris vied with each other in 
ingenuity to attract custom. Not only did they 
allow unlimited credit — often finding to their cost 
what this led to — but they were at their wits' end to 
invent ways of displaying their goods, and tempting 
customers to spend. The shops, formerly dark and 
badly lighted, had become little salo7iSy with looking- 
glasses reflecting a profusion of lights, and decorated 
with panels rich with gilding. All this might seem 
little enough to us nowadays, with our modern pro- 
gress, but we must not forget that in the days of 
Louis XVI. the world had not got beyond candles, 
and that a shop in the Rue Richelieu or Saint-Honore 
represented at that time all that commercial luxury 
could provide in order to dazzle customers. 

But Rose Bertin did not leave the neighbourhood 
of the Palais- Royal, which was the centre of Parisian 
life ; and in spite of her reverses, and in spite of all 


gossip to the contrary, she still had the custom of 
Marie- Antoinette. 

A portrait of the Queen painted in this very year 
of 1787, by Mme. Vigee-Lebrun, represents her in 
a pouf of red velvet trimmed with fur in Rose's style, 
a scarf of gauze edged with lace, and a bunch of white 
feathers. Mme. Vis^ee-Lebrun in her '' Souvenirs" 
gives the following details concerning this portrait, 
which is now in the Palace of Versailles : 

"The last sitting which I had from Her Majesty 
was at Trianon, when I painted her head for my 
large picture of her and her children. I remember 
that the Baron de Breteuil, then in the Ministry, was 
present during the sitting, and never ceased talking 
scandal about all the Court ladies. . . . After I had 
painted the head, and made separate studies of the 
first Dauphin, Madame Royale, and the Due de Nor- 
mandie, I set about painting my picture, to which 
I attached great importance, and I finished it in time 
for the Salon of 1787. After the Salon my picture 
was placed in one of the rooms in the Chateau de 
Versailles, and the Queen had always to pass it in 
going to Mass and in returning. When the Dauphin 
died in 1789, the sight of the picture reminded her 
so vividly of her cruel loss that she could not pass 
through that room without shedding tears. She 
gave an order to M. d'Angevilliers (Minister of Arts 
and Director of the Royal Buildings) to have the 
picture removed ; but, with'^ her usual graciousness, 
she was careful to let me know of it at once, and 


to explain the reason for this removal. I owe the 
j)reservation of my picture to this feeling of the 
Queen's, for when the fish- wives and roughs came 
to Versailles shortly afterwards, in search of Their 
Majesties, they would certainly have cut it to pieces, 
as they did the Queen's bed, which was pierced 
through and through." 

It is also thanks to this that one of Mile. Bertin's 
creations remains to us, and it is one of peculiar 
interest. We know that, though Rose was chiefly 
celebrated for hats and bonnets, complete costumes 
were also made in her workrooms. There is no 
need to examine Mme. Vig^e-Lebrun's picture very 
closely to see that the style of the Queen's dress and 
bodice is the same as that of the pouf which she 

Marie-Antoinette had definitely adopted that style 
of head-dress. " It was her favourite diadem," says 
Bouilly, who, relating his presentation to the Queen, 
tells us that she wore a black velvet poiif on that 
occasion. It was one of the last fashions which she 
adopted before a prisoner's cap became her only 

It was still Rose Bertin who made some of the 
head-dresses with which the Queen covered the hair 
whitened by the anguish of her royal agony. 

No, the Queen had not withdrawn her confidence 
from her modiste; and if on one occasion she may 
have suspected her intentions and appeared to dis- 
trust her, owing to some popular gossip, this is quite 


understandable at a time when her heart was wounded 
by the perfidious insinuations and continual outrages 
with which her enemies pursued her. These had 
gradually made her so unpopular that the famous 
picture above mentioned, in which Mme. Vigee- 
Lebrun has depicted her surrounded by her children, 
was not exhibited at the opening of the Salon in 
August, 1787, but only a few days later, so great 
was the fear that it might be outraged by the 

In 1788 Mme. Vigee-Lebrun painted a last portrait 
of the Queen for the Baron de Breteuil. As we learn 
from the preceding paragraphs, the Queen did not 
sit for this portrait, and the artist used drawings 
which she had by her. The bodice and fouf, which 
are of blue velvet, are very much of the same cut as 
those in the large portrait exhibited in the Salon of 
1787, but the_p6>^^/is not trimmed with fur. 

The Queen was now disheartened, and her outlook 
on life was changed. In this year of 1787 every- 
thing conspired to make her forget pleasure and 
renounce those things which had formerly occupied her 
mind. In July, when she lost her youngest daughter, 
little Princesse Marie - Sophie - Helene- Beatrix, at the 
age of eleven months, she hastened to take refuge 
in the peace of Trianon, calling Mme. Elizabeth to 
her side in a letter full of grief. " We will weep 
together," she says, ^' over the death of my little 
angel. I need all your heart to comfort mine." 

The reign of frills and futility was at an end, and 


the star of Mile. Bertin was on the wane. She was 
a victim of circumstances, like many others. 

Trade felt the eiFects of the events of the last few 
years. We may get some idea of this from the 
following extract from the Journal Politique or 
Gazette des Gazettes published at Bouillon in the 
last fortnight of September, 1789 : 

'* The dealers of Paris are beginning to complain 
that they have no sale for their goods, and can get no 
credit from the manufacturers. This is, unfortunately, 
but too true. Another no less regrettable fact is that 
many noblemen are reducing their households ; some 
have dismissed as many as forty of their servants." 

At such a time, when the noble and wealthy were 
reducing their expenditure on every side, dealers in 
luxuries, such as our modiste, could not hope to 

She seemed, moreover, to be pursued by the malice 
of the public, which could not fail to excite her 
natural irritability to the highest pitch. 

As she was returning from England, where she 
went fairly often, and where she possessed a pied d 
terre^ a report was circulated that she had been 
arrested and taken to the Bastille. The bookseller 
Hardy reports this rumour on January 24, 1788, 
under the following title : " Miles. Bertin and Lenoir 
said to be taken to the Bastille. Why ?" which shows 
that he had not much faith in this fresh adventure 
attributed to Rose, and he contents himself with 
commenting on it as follows : 


" A report was current that Miles. Bertin and 
Lenoir, fashion-dealers to the Queen, had been arrested 
and taken to the Bastille, the former on her way back 
from London, where she had ostensibly been to 
purchase ribbons, gauzes, and other material of her 
trade, but that she had brought back with them a 
number of copies of certain publications containing 
fierce attacks upon Her Majesty, which she had been 
requested in England to take charge of by Mme. de 
Lamotte, with whom she had been imprudent enough 
to have an interview, in order to smuggle them into 
France and distribute them there. Secret denuncia- 
tion before her arrival in the capital had caused the 
complete collapse of this plan. It was also alleged 
that the detention of a bookseller lately arrested in the 
Rue de la Barillerie had some connection with this 
affair of Miles. Bertin and Lenoir"* 

Hardy again calls Mile. Bertin " fashion- dealer to 
the Queen," a proof that the incidents of a year ago, 
with regard to her pretended bankruptcy, had not 
altered her position of official modiste to the Court. 

The story of Mile. Bertin's arrest was nothing but 
pure invention. Yet there is no smoke without fire. 
The clandestine importation of Mme. de Lamotte's 
memoir had actually occurred. The police had 
really laid hands upon the person who had under- 
taken to smuggle it into France. But that person 
was neither Mile. Bertin nor Mile. Lenoir, but 
another fashion-dealer called Henriette Sando, who 
* Bibl. Nat., MS. Franvais 6,686. 


lived at No. 5, Rue des Haudriettes, at the sign of 
Au Gout de la Cour, Slie was arrested under the 
name of Comtesse Anselme. She was on good terms 
with several ladies of the Court. The author of " La 
Bastille devoile^ " says : " Many letters from these 
ladies were found among her papers, full o£ ex- 
pressions of affection : ' Come and see me, dear 
heart ; I will send you my carriage. Would you like to 
go to the theatre ? I will lend you my box.' The 
motive of these little attentions was the amount due 
to her, which they endeavoured to pay with com- 
pliments rather than money." A person called 
Mangin who was imprisoned with her was only her 
lady's-maid. They were both released three months 
after their arrest, on April, 8, 1788. 

The memoir of Mme. de Lamotte, the cause of all 
this commotion, was very rare at that time, but has 
become common enough since. Mme. Campan says 
that she saw a copy in the Queen's possession, in 
manuscript, which had been brought from London, 
with corrections in the handwriting of M. de Calonne, 
in the places where Mme. de Lamotte's ignorance 
of Court usages had led her into the grossest errors. 

All this time the Queen continued her efforts to 
reduce her expenditure. On January 16, 1788, an 
edict was issued retrenching 1,206,600 livres in the 
expenses o£ her household. It was remarked that 
Marie- Antoinette inclined more and more to sim- 
plicity. On June 23, on the occasion of a visit to 
the Invalides, it was reported that her extremely 


modest costume had formed a striking contrast with 
those of Madame Royale, and Mme. Elizabeth, who 
wore costumes of ceremony, as the bookseller Hardy 
does not fail to relate in his memoirs. 

However, Rose still had business in nearly every 
part of Europe, though on a lesser scale than before. 
She sent a bonnet a Vordre de la Jarretiere to an 
English customer. She made the dresses of the 
Duchess Wilrtemburg, who had been the Duke's 
mistress, under the name of Countess Hohenheim, for 
many years before the Duke married her in 1786. 
Marie- Antoinette mentions her in a letter to Marie- 
Theresa of Februar}^ 27, 1776, saying that the Duke 
" drags his mistress everywhere, a not very present- 
able Countess." Rose also supplied the wedding 
outfit of Mile, de Luxembourg when she married 
M. de Cadaval, as well as Mme. de Luxembourg's 
dress for the ceremony. Mile, de Luxembourg's 
rohe d' accord cost 1,359 livres ; the wedding dress (a 
Turkish robe) cost 4,556 livres, of which 980 fell to the 
dressmaker ; the rohe de kndemain cost 1,593 livres, 
of which the dressmaker had 84 ; and jpoufsy toquets, 
and straw hats, ranging from 39 to 200 livres. 

And as receptions were still held in high society, 
the modiste had still to supply ball dresses. A ball 
dress for Mme. de Rochefort delivered in February 
cost 637 livres. 

Mile. Rose's financial situation, though evidently 
not so brilliant as it had been, must still have been 
fairly good at this time, for in the course of the years 


1788 and 1789 she invested a considerable amount 
of capital in house property in Paris. 

On February 23, 1788, she bought a house in the 
Rue du Mail for a sum of 287,700 livres.* This 
house was No. 43, situated towards the middle of the 
street, now No. 27, and was occupied by the Bureau 
General de Transport, and was known as the Hotel des 
Chiens. This Bureau de Transport was a company 
authorized to transport bales, packets, furniture, and 
merchandise, from one part of Paris to another, some- 
thing like the parcel delivery service of our own 
days. The " Guide des Amateurs et des Etrangers 
Yoyageurs a Paris," published in 1787, gives the 
following information concerning this agency : 

" Foreigners and provincials sending their luggage 
or merchandise in advance, if they have not decided 
where they will lodge, may, if they send a letter of 
advice, address their packages direct to M. Y. de 
Yallon, General Director of the Bureau de Transport 
Int^rieur de Paris, Rue du Mail, No. 43." 

This explains why Rose Bertin, hampered by the shy 
and awkward young provincial Chateaubriand, when 
she arrived with him from Rennes, took him straight 
to the Rue dii Mail ; she could show him the place 
where he had to apply for his luggage, within a 
stone's throw of his hotel. 

The next year Rose bought another important 
piece of house property in the Rue de Richelieu. 

* Archives de la Seine : Minutes des Lettres de Ratifica- 
tions, No. 2,369. 


On January 27, 1789, M. Bochart de Saron was 
appointed first President of the Parliament, and in 
virtue of that office was entitled to a lodging in the 
palace. He left his house in the Rue de Richelieu, 
therefore, and put it up for sale. This house was 
built about 1640 by Charles de Pradine ; it is now 
No/ 26. In 1825 it was purchased by the celebrated 
actor Charles Gabriel Potier, who gave his name to 
the Passage Potier which runs through the house, 
and gives access to the Rue de Montpensier from the 
Rue de Richelieu. * Rose Bertin bought this house 
on April 24, 1789, for the sum of 180,000 livres. 
The deed of sale runs : 

" Sale before Maitre De la Cour, notary of Paris, 
April 24, 1789. 

" By Monseigneur Jean-Baptiste-Gaspard- Bochart 
de Saron, first President of the Parliament of Paris, 
residing in the hotel of the First Presidency, in the 
enclosure of the palace. 

'* To Demoiselle Marie- Jeanne Bertin, fashion - 
dealer to the Queen, residing in Paris, Rue de 
Richelieu . . ." 

This official document again uses the title " fashion- 
dealer to the Queen," claimed by the purchaser. This 
alone, if we had no other proofs, should be sufficient 

* Potier made his debut at the theatre founded by Beau- 
rivage in the Boulevard du Temple, under the name of 
Theatre des Associes, and which was afterwards called the 
Theatre sans Pretention under Prevost's management in 





to invalidate the malicious rumours on the subject 
which had been current for two years. 

Thus Rose Bertin moved once more, and transferred 
her business premises from M. de Maussion's house 
to that which she had just purchased from President 
Bochart de Saron. 

*' The frontage of her shop, with its three Roman 
arcades in the Louis XVL style, have been preserved 
for us by the engraver's art, although there was 
nothing remarkable about it."* 

In the month of August following she was jBnally 
settled in the house; but the purchase-money was 
not paid immediately, and when the property of 
Bochart de Saron was sequestrated in 1793, she 
was still his debtor for about 100,000 livres. To 
free herself from this debt she executed a deed which 
is mentioned in the dossier of the sequestration 
preserved in the Archives,! the terms of which are 
as follows ; 

*' I the undersigned, Director of the Agence des 
Droits d'Enregistrement et Domanies Nationaux et 
Rdunis, charged with the collection of the debts due to 
emigres^ acknowledge receipt from Citizen Duchatel, 
head of the Bureau de I'Actif et du Passif des 
Emigres, of a contract of sale by Jean-Baptiste- 
Gaspard Bochart de Saron, dead by the last law in 
Paris, Rue , Section , to Marie-Jeanne Bertin, 

^ Vitu, "La Maison Mortuaire de Moliere;' Paris, 1880. 
f Archives Nationales, Serie T, 1,604, No. 53. 


of a house situated in Rue de la Loi, charged with a 
perpetual annuity of 4,400 livres to the said Bochart, 
for the rest of the purchase-money of the said house. 
'' Paris, the 28th Prairial in the year II. of the 
one and indivisible French Republic. 

" (Signed) Gentil." 

Events moved quickly at that time. Yet in the 
first months of 1789 there was nothing to indicate 
the magnitude of the impending changes. *' Yet for 
several months past flashes of lightning had been 
seen, which were the precursors of the storm," writes 
Comte Louis -Philippe de Segur, "but no one foresaw 
it. It was thought that salutary reforms would put 
an end to the temporary difficulties of our govern- 
ment. It was an epoch of illusions." However, 
several foreigners thought it prudent to leave France, 
as appears from the following lines of a letter which 
Countess Razoumowsky wrote to Rose Bertin from 
Geneva on January 10, 1789 : ''Your troubles in 
Paris have cruelly driven me from your kingdom, 
for which I am sorry, but I hope that I shall soon be 
able to return."* The Countess ends with friendly 
messages from her husband to Mile. Bertin. The 
troubles were not serious as yet. 

So far there was no change in the routine of the 
Court, where all the usual ceremonies were still 
observed. Thus on January 20, 1789, Rose supplied 
the Dowager Duchess of Harcourt with a Court dress 

* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Berlin, Dossier No. 529 bis. 


for tlie Duchesse de Croye, who was to be presented 
to the Queen.* 

Such was the heedlessness in certam circles that 
people went on laughing and enjoying themselves as 
if no danger menaced them, in spite of the daily 
warnings of political events, newspapers, and popular 
rumours. " One of the most fashionable salons in 
which the young women most delighted was that of 
Lady Kerry," writes Mme. de Laage in her memoirs ; 
'' the merry band made it their rendezvous twice a 
week to play at creps and cavagnole.'' These were some 
of the customers who were still faithful to Rose Bertin 
— Lady Kerry was one and so was the Comtesse de 
Laage — and between the games they still discussed 
the novelties of fashion, and planned pretty or daring 
hats to deck heads which were soon to be severed by 
the axe of the dawning Revolution. 

There were balls and entertainments on every side. 
At the beginning of April the Marquise de Menou 
gave a brilliant ball. The Comtesse de Laage, whose 
taste inclined to simplicity, asks herself whether she 
can pass unnoticed, " among ladies in diamond neck- 
laces and dresses wreathed with garlands of flowers, 
in a simple white dress, a string of pearls, a single 
large white plume, and a neckband of black velvet." 
A week later the Duke of Dorset gave a ball to 
celebrate the recovery of George III., King of England,! 

* Collection Doucet, Dossier No. 208. 
t George IH. suffered the first attack of the mental 
affliction, which continued to the end of his life, in the 



and Mme. de Laage appeared in the same costume 
with two additional plumes on her head. 

Finally the States-General were convoked, and 
the procession of the Three Orders took place at 
Versailles on May 4. Mme. de Laage had lent her 
presentation dress to Mme. de Polastron ; she writes 
that it " shone" that day as good as new among the 
state dresses made for the occasion, many of which 
had also been made in Rose's workrooms. 

She gives us also a brief description of the costume 
worn by Marie- Antoinette on the morrow (May 5) : 
" The Queen was beautifully dressed : a single band 
of diamonds, with her fine heron's plume, a violet 
dress, and white skirt in silver tissue. The King 
wore the Regent in his hat." 

The fall of the Bastille really marked the beginning 
of a new era for politics and fashions. All was over 
with poufs and bonnets a la lever de la Reiney with 
luxury and originality in dress. Bonnets a la Bastille 
were worn adorned with the national cockade, and 
bonnets d la Citoyenne in white gauze of an antique 
simplicity. The linen of Jouy reigned in triumph 
over silks, not by a royal caprice, but by the will of 
the people. 

The sceptre of fashion fell from the hands which 
had held it so long, and Mile. Bertin saw, with horror, 

spring of 1788. The crisis passed, and he was able to 
resume his royal functions in March, 1789. The Duke of 
Dorset, English Ambassador in France from 1783 to 1789, 
gave a ball to celebrate this event. 


her debts growing larger day by day. The petites 
bourgeoises and women of the people would not venture 
into shops notorious for high prices. We have seen 
that many great ladies of foreign nationality had 
already left Paris ; whether out of prudence or 
cowardice, the French nobility were not long in 
following their example. The Duchesse de Polignac, 
yielding to the persuations of the Queen, emigrated 
to Germany in the night of July 16. On August 8 
Princesse Louise de Conde, with the Princesse de 
Monaco and the Marquise d'Autichamp, went to Bonn 
671 route for Coblentz. On September 5 the Comtesse 
d'Artois set out for Turin. The nobility of France 
were scattered to the four corners of Europe ; London, 
Brussels, Worms, Mannheim, Strasburg, and other 
towns, were invaded by emigres ; the royal pair were 
left in an anxious isolation, upon which history can 
scarcely pass too severe a judgment. 

How could a dealer in luxuries prosper under such 
conditions ? In her deserted shop, before which few 
carriages ever stopped now, the energetic dressmaker, 
for the first time in her life, found time to go through 
her books and discover bills due to her for years, 
most of which there was now no means of taking 
steps to recover. Rose Bertin, like a lady of leisure, 
could now waste an hour sitting at the window 
watching the rain. 

A Royalist by conviction as well as by interest, 
the Queen's modiste could no longer follow the 
fantasies which the tragedies of a day introduced into 


the fashions of the morrow. She could not have 
displayed in her windows such ribhons as were sold 
by one of her neighbours the day after the murder of 
Foalon, whose head was carried through the streets 
of Paris, We read in the "Souvenirs" of the Comtesse 
d'Adhemar upon this subject : " A fashion -dealer of 
good taste (I have heard her called so, whose shop 
was at the corner of the Rues Neuve-des-Petits- 
Champs and Richelieu ; her name was Gautier) dis- 
played ribbons sang de Fovlon. They created a 
furore; the word is an apt one." 

" After the taking of the Bastille, ladies wore ear- 
rings and rings made of bits of stone set in gold. 
These were called jewels d la Constitution r'^ 

" Palloy, to whom the demolition of the Bastille 
was entrusted, had little Bastilles sculptured on its 
stones which he sent to the chief towns of every 
department." f For more than a year all the arts 
celebrated the fall of the Bastille. 

The situation of Rose Bertin, though it grew less 
brilliant every day, was not yet hopeless. She still 
had her foreign custom. In 1790 we find on her 
books the names of the Marquise de Castel-Fuerte, 
a Sicilian, that of the Russian Princess Lubomirska, 
then at Geneva, etc. She had still some customers 
in France who had not emigrated. At Abbeville, 
for example, the Marquise de Crecy, the Baronne 
Duplouy, and Mme. de Hautcourt, were still faithful 

* Roussel d'Epinal, " Le Chateau des Tuileries,^' t. ii. 
f Ib^d.^ note. 


to her. Great ladies, such as the Presidente d'Or- 
messon, were still in Paris. On July 5, 1790, Rose 
made a Court dress for the Vicomtesse de Preissac, 
who was about to be presented to Marie-Antoinette, 
The Vicomtesse de Preissac emigrated to England 
the following year, and died there, leaving her 
presentation dress not paid for. It cost 1,218 livres, 
a sum which, like many others, Rose was never able 
to recover. 

This was the last presentation at Court, and 
Mme. de Preissac's dress was the last of the kind 
made in the workrooms of the Rue de Richelieu. 
They twisted " national cockades " instead. A good 
trade was done in these that year, 1790, and the 
following years. 

The Cabinet des Modes of November 5, 1790, states, 
not without a tinge of melancholy : " Our customs 
are growing better ; luxury is dying out." The editor 
realized the excesses into which eighteenth-century 
society had been drawn by Fashion, and in this he 
shows a judicious and far-seeing spirit ; but this 
discarding of luxury could not fail to be prejudicial 
to a trade which gave employment to innumerable 
women, kept capital in circulation, and justified the 
existence of such newspapers as the Cabinet des 

In March, 1790, the King and Queen, seeing that 
the gravity of the situation was increasing, thought 
it would be good policy to interest some of the 
leading deputies of the States-General in the cause 


of monarchy, especially Mirabeau. Steps were taken 
in which Comte de la Marck and the Ambassador of 
Austria, Mercy - Argenteau, were closely concerned. 
If we may believe the author of " Souvenirs de 
Lf^onard," he and Rose Bertin were employed in 
these negotiations. We know how much faith we 
can put in all the stories contained in these soi-disant 
*' Souvenirs " of the Queen's hairdresser ; yet we 
must admit that Mme. Campan, Rose Bertin, and 
Leonard himself, as he boasts, if they could not have 
played a leading part in this affair, may yet have 
had an opportunity of enlightening the Queen upon 
the political situation, upon the town gossip, and all 
the public rumours, which could not reach the ears 
o£ the Sovereigns, because there were too many people 
about them whose interest it was to hush them up. 
"The Queen," we read in the "Souvenirs," "had heard 
certain details of Mirabeau s intimacy with the Due 
d'Orleans from Mme. Campan, Mile. Bertin, and 
myself." Mile. Bertin's share in this business can 
only have consisted in enlightening the Queen, to 
whom she had such easy access, upon what was 
going on. She often conversed familiarly with the 
Queen, and she had too much good sense not to have 
taken the opportunity, while trying on, or adjusting 
a ribbon, to express her anxiety, and repeat what she 
heard upon all points. Her confidences and conversa- 
tions must have had at least some share in the Queen's 
decision to seek support for monarchy in the tribune, 
who then seemed all-powerful. 


There were interviews between Mercy and Mira- 
beau at La Marck's house, the Hotel Charost, Rue du 
Faubourg Saint-Honor6. Marie-Antoinette used to 
receive La Marck in the apartments of Mme. Thibaut, 
her chief lady's-maid. " Mme. Thibaut," writes La 
Marck, "was a dear old woman, dressed like any 
ordinary lady's-maid. When she spoke of the Queen, 
she used to say ' my mistress.' " She was with her 
on the journey to Yarennes, and helped to plan the 
escape from the Temple. She was a devoted woman, 
and a modest customer of Rose Bertin's. It must 
certainly have been through her that Rose had any- 
thing to do with any confidential measures on the 
subject of these delicate negotiations. But that 
was all ; the part played by the modiste went no 

In the course of the summer of 1790 the Queen 
made an excursion to Belle vue. She had an escort 
of the Garde Rationale. The Comtesse de Boigne 
tells us that " she wore a pierrot of white linon 
embroidered with bunches of mauve lilac, a full fichu, 
and a large straw hat with wide mauve ribbons tied 
in a large bow where the fichu was crossed on her 

The number of those who paid court to the Queen 
daily grew less. Showing oneself at the Tuileries 
was a thing to be avoided ; the sentinels who kept 
the gates of the garden had orders to refuse admission 
to anyone not wearing the national cockade — " the 
national cockade which was sometimes so small that 


it escaped observation, and sometimes hidden con- 
temptuously under another bow of ribbon," says the 
Englishwoman Helen Williams. Then the guard 
would cry gruffly : " Citoyenne, your cockade I" and 
if the cockade could not be produced entrance to the 
Tuileries was refused. The trade in cockades was 
the only one which current events made flourishing, 
but the profit it yielded was small. 

It is true that there were many who did not hide 
their cockades — quite the contrary. In April, 1791, 
we read in the Journal de la Coiir de la Ville : 

*'It is impossible to understand the vanity of certain 
aristocrats who order national cockades of such exag- 
gerated size and price that some are as big as cabbages, 
and cost 18 livres apiece." 

Those sold by Rose Bertin were not all so expensive 
as this. On March 24, 1790, the Comtesse de Conway 
bought one for 7 livres ; on February 19, 1791, the 
Comtesse Gentinne ordered one at 6 livres ; and the 
Comtesse Gouvernet paid 9 livres for hers. On 
March 14, 1792, the famous Vestris, of the Opera, 
ordered rather a fancy one of violet, pink, and white 
satin ribbon. 

Many women who had no political convictions wore 
the cockade out of vanity, the three colours looked 
so pretty in the sunshine; for the spring of 1791 was 
remarkable for perfect weather : ''in the first days of 
April, 1791, the weather was superb and warm,"* 

* Comtesse d'Adhemar, " Souvenirs sur Marie-Antoinette,''' 
t. iv. 


and all the favourite promenades in the Champs- 

Ely sees and the Tuileries were crowded. 

At that time the Queen was occupied with serious 
matters which made her neglect the things in which 
she had so long found pleasure and amusement. She 
still gave orders to Demoiselle Noel, Demoiselle Mouil- 
lard, Dame Pompee,^^' and Dame Eloffe, but they do not 
seem to have supplied her with anything more than 
ribbons, fichus, scarfs, and a few bonnets. These mod- 
istes were generally employed in remodelling and un- 
important work ; Rose Bertin and Sarrazin, the King's 
tailor, were still the official suppliers of the Court, 
and orders of any importance were reserved for them. 

The Queen had not yet abandoned Rose Bertin. 
All the stories told and rumours circulated were 
nothing but pure invention. We repeat this once 
more because we have had in our hands the ^' Memo- 
randum of goods supplied to H.M. Queen Marie- 
Antoinette by Mile. Bertin from January 1, 1791, 
to August 12, 1792."'j" The existence o£ this memo- 
randum is an irrefutable proof that the story of her 
disgrace had no foundation. Maitre Grangeret, lawyer 
for the heirs of Rose Bertin, supplied a list of goods 
and payments received from the year 1788 to 
August 10, 1792, which gives us an exact know- 
ledge of the Queen s expenditure during that time. 

* Mme. Porapey, Rue de FOrangerie at Versailles, was 
already a supplier of fashions to the Queen in 1784 (Arch. 
Nat., Prevote de FHotel, Serie OS 3,704). 

t Collection J. Doucet, Dossier 596. 


The following document seems to us of interest for 
that reason : 

The Queen"'s Wardrobe. 

Livres. s. Livres. s. 
Sum of goods supplied in the year 

1788 68,992 10 

Paid in various instalments up to 

No vember 30, 1 789 46,389 

Received on March 25, 1792, from 

the Caisse de TExtraordinaire ... 22,603 10 

68,992 10 

Sum of goods supphed in the year 

1789 46,072 8 

Received on March 25 from the 

Caisse de TExtraordinaire . . . 38,000 

Discount for 1788 and 1789 ... 8,072 8 

46,072 8 

Sum of goods supplied in the year 

1790 42,736 18 


Received in different instalments 
from February 27 to November 8, 
inclusive, in money, from whom 
not indicated 42,736 18 

Sum of goods supplied in 1791, with 
interest for arrears in 1788 and 
1 789, to January 1 , 1 792 ... 44,077 4 

Sum of goods supplied up to 

April 10 17,120 

61,197 4 


Livi'es. s. Livres. s. 
Sum of goods supplied (as detailed 

on p. 202) 61,197 4 

Payments on Account, 

September 7, 1791, in money, on 

account for 1791 3,000 

November 8, 1791, on account for 

1791, in money 3,319 

December 21, on account for 1791, 

in money ... ... ... ... 6,000 

February 23, 1792, in money, on 

account ... ... ... ... 6,000 

March 15, 1792, in money, on 

account ... ... ... ... 5,000 

May 18, 1792, in money, on account 2,000 


35,878 4 

The last account of January 1, 1791, to August 10, 
1792, was made out by the Duchesse de Grammout 
d'Ossun, Lady of the Wardrobe, and handed to 
Henry, the Intendant of the Civil List. It was as 
follows : 

January Quarter, 1791. 

Livres. s. Livres. s. 

Materials 484 

Dresses ... ... ... ... 1,705 

Trimmings, etc. ... ... ... 3,814 8 

6,003 8 

April Quarter, 1791. 

Materials ... ... ... ... 90 

Dresses 3,973 

Trimmings, etc. ... ... ... 5,241 



July Quarter, 1791. 

Livres. s. Livres. s. 

Materials 1,186 

Trimmings, etc. ... ... ... 4,673 


October Quarter, 1791. 

Materials ... ... ... ... 405 

Dresses ... ... ... ... 6,859 

Trimmings, etc. ... ... ... 7,656 16 

14,920 16 

Interest on the years 1788 and 1789 7,990 

January quarter, 179^ ... ... ... ... 4,824 2 

April quarter, 1792 7,535 18 

July quarter to August 1 0, 1 792 4,760 

61,197 4 

It will be noticed that in these last five years the 
Queen's expenditure diminished steadily. The total 
of 68,992 livres 10 sols for the year 1788, a 
slight increase on that of the year 1787, which was 
61,545 livres,* is reduced to 46,072 livres 8 sols in 
1789, and to 42,736 livres 18 sols in 1790 ; and 
after deducting 7,990 livres for interest on arrears, to 
36,087 livres 4 sols in 1791. Finally the ex- 
penditure for seven months and ten days in 1792, 
was 17,119 livres, an average of about 28,000 livres 
per annum. 

* Archives Nationales, O^, 3,792. This dossier gives the 
figures 61,992 Hvres for 1788, instead of 68,992, the figures 
given in M. J. Doucet's collection of extracts. 


We have extracted the following prices from the 
items of the last bill : 

January 8, 1791 : Retrimming state robe of orange 

VC^1V\^L ••* ••• >•« «>• ••• ■*• 

January 14, 1791 : Trimming Turkish dress of 
green satin 

February 2, 1791 : Trimming a striped state robe 
with plumage of foreign birds ... 

April 24, 1791 : Trimming state robe for Easter 
Sunday, ground of white gros de Naples^ em- 
broidered with Reine-Marguerites in silk 

May 1, 1791 : A skirt of very fine white gauze ... 
A violet Turkish dress with violet stripes 
Crepe skirt to wear with it 

June 1, 1791 : Trimming Turkish dress of pink 

uUflXC^Lu' *•• #•• ••« ••• ••• «»• 

Trimming another Turkish dress of striped 
blue gauze ... 
June 12, 1791 : Trimming a state robe of violet 

l^tUiv^i/cl *•• ••• ••• •*• • • * •*• 

June 18, 1791 : Trimming a Turkish dress of blue 

and black shot taffeta ... 
September SO, 1791 : Trimming a redingote of 

brown moire striped with blue ... 

Trimming a Turkish dress of striped moire ... 
October % 1791 : Trimming state robe of lilac 


Supplying skirt of striped crepe 
Trimming a dress 
October 28, 1791 : Turkish dress of blue and 

white striped satin 
November 2, 1791 : State dress of brown satin for 

All Saints' Day ... 
November 6, 1791 : Turkish dress of blue and 

brown satin ... ... ... ... ... 918 






















Livres. s. 

November 20, 1791 : Turkish dress of Indian satin 

painted white and pink ... ... ... ... 618 

December 4, 1791 : State dress of violet satin ... 721 

December 20, 1791 : Turkish dress of satin-faced 

cloth, with lace belonging to the Queen ... 24 

December 24, 1791 : Trimming a state dress of 
orange velvet with marten, the hem of the dress 
trimmed with same fur, belonging to the Queen 24 

December 29, 1791 : State dress for New Year's 

Day, of blue embroidered satin ... ... ... 978 

April 1,1792: Trimming crepe dress ... ... 78 

April 13, 1792: Trimming state dress of black 

striped with black ... ... ... ... 192 

May 13, 1792 : Trimming state dress of blue and 

violet glace taffeta ... ... ... ... 51 

May 19, 1792 : Trimming a redingote of brown 

taffeta with A len(^on ... ... ... ... 668 

May 26, 1792 : Trimming state dress of em- 
broidered gourgourant with white ground . . . 898 

July 11, 1792 : Trimming a white gauze dress ... 285 

July 28, 1792 : Trimming a state dress of blue 

Trimmings, etc. 

January 8, 1791 : A mantilla in blonde ... ... 200 

A poiif of puce-coloured velvet draped with 

white satin ... ... ... ... ... 80 

January 29, 1791 : Six large fichus of gaze de 

C/iam^tV?/, at 12 livres ... ... ... ... 72 

February 27, 1791 : Changing gauze of a fichu 

and putting lace border .. . ... ... ... 10 

A hat with fine yellow straw crown, trimmed 
with white satin to form turban, a flat blue 
feather round the shape, a panache of two 
blue feathers at the side ... ... ... 72 






Livres. s. 
April 10, 1791 : A mantle of white Florence 

May 18, 1791 : A black taiFeta shawl 

June 24, 1791 : A mantle of black taffeta 

Another mantle of black taffeta 
August 4, 1791 : For a present — 

A hat of fine yellow straw, trimmed with a 
profusion of blue taffeta ribbon, and strings 
of same to tie under the chin ... ... 48 

Three yards of wide sash ribbon to match, at 

4 livres ... ... ... ... ... 12 

August 27, 1791 : Mantle of black taffeta trimmed 

with Angleterre ... 
September 6, 1791 : A poiif'oi blue crepe 

A hat en honnette of batiste, edged with wide 
linen lace a third of the height, draped with 
a fichu of fine organdie 
A poufmside from a fichu of organdie 
A white straw hat 

A hat of English beaver, chocolate colour ... 
September 20, 1791 : For Madame Roy ale — 
A wreath of scabious ... 
Ditto of white musk roses 
Ditto of pink musk roses 
Ditto of corn-flowers ... 
Ditto of field-flowers ... 
October 2, 1791 : A mantilla of blonde and 

Alen^on ... ... ... ... ... ... 200 

January 20, 1792 : Mantle of black taffeta trimmed 

with Angleterre ... ... ... ... ... 300 

Another mantle of black taffeta trimmed with 

Alen(^on ... ... ... ... ... 410 

Third mantle of black taffeta trimmed with 

Alengon ... ... ... ... ... 420 

A fourth mantle of white Florence, with 

trimmings made by Le Normand ... ... 33 













Livres. s. 

May 15, 1792 : For Madame— 

A 'pouf of wreath of mauve lilac, ribbon of 

white frivolite and gauze a verimclielle ... 78 
A second fouf of a wreath of roses and white 
striped gauze ribbons, a beautiful white 
feather at the side ... ... ... ... 90 

May 28, 1792 : Two bonnets, deep mourning, in 
white crepe, a coiffe of gauze, one of black wool, 
at 51 livres ... ... ... ... ... 102 

We give the last lines of the account verbatim : 

For Madame. 

August 7 : A fouf of violet crepe with green corn- 
ears, a panache of three feathers and blonde ... 90 
A poivf of blue crepe and pearls, wide blonde 
with ground of Alen9on, and blue-and- 
white feather ... ... ... ... 110 

A 'poiif of striped gauze with almonds, a 

wreath of roses and bunch of the same roses 98 
Two boxes at 3 livres ... ... ... ... 6 

The account ends here. 

Three days later the Tuileries were besieged, bom- 
barded, and taken by assault. That day the mob 
pillaged the Queen's wardrobe, and divided the gar- 
ments which appear in Rose Bertin's last account. 
The following is the description of the scene given 
by Roussel d'Epinal"^: 

" The entrance to the Queen's apartments is blocked 
with dead bodies wrapped in blankets. Except tne 

^ " Le Chateau des Tuileries;' par P. J. A. R. D. T. 


hangings, chairs, sofas, and bed, everything is sacked. 
Not a looking-glass intact; they are ground to powder. 
How many women rummaged curiously in her ward- 
robe ! How many bonnets, elegant hats, pink skirts, 
white petticoats and blue petticoats, are scattered 
about the room !" However, everything did not 
disappear ; thieves were expected, and guards were 
sent. In 1793 the furniture of the Tuileries was 
sold. The sale was not very brilliant. A hne 
auction was expected, but there was nothing of the 
sort. There came only second-hand dealers, and the 
curious who bought nothing. However, the ward- 
robes of Marie- Antoinette and Mme. Elizabeth sold 
a little better than that of Louis XVL, which fetched 
ludicrous prices. 

The Revolutionary Government now undertook 
the maintenance of the Royal Family out of the 
500,000 livres voted for that purpose by the Conven- 
tion. But they did not pay the debts still due by 
the prisoners in the Temple on August 10, 1792. 
We have seen that the total of the Queen's bill 
amounted to 35,878 livres 4 sols, including goods 
supplied to Madame Royale. To these must be added 
400 livres due by Mme. Elizabeth, and 184 livres for 
the Dauphin's clothes, a total of 36,462 livres 4 sols 
for ever lost to Rose Bertin. 

In the extracts which we have given, we have 
included the dresses trimmed for Marie- Antoinette, 
and the principal items of the account. It may 
be observed that, with a few exceptions, the 



prices are not very extraordinary. Mantles at 48 
livres and fichus at 12 livres are not at all excessive ; 
these would even be modest prices in the catalogues 
sent out nowadays by our great shops. Our elegentes 
would laugh at the idea of paying 80 or 90 livres 
for a velvet toque bearing the name of the leading 
maison de modes in the whole world. But that is 
what Rose Bertin charged the Queen of France. On 
the other hand, Marie- Antoinette ordered forty poufs 
and hats and fifty bonnets in nineteen months. 

Among the bonnets are two in deep mourning. 
The date of their delivery, May 28, 1792, shows that 
the Queen ordered them upon the death of Leopold IL, 
her brother Emperor of Germany, which took place 
a few weeks before. 

At the beginning of this year 1792, when Rose 
Bertin went to the Tuileries one day upon her usual 
business, Marie- Antoinette said to her as she came in : 
" 1 dreamed of you last night, my dear Rose ; I 
thought you brought me a lot of coloured ribbons, 
and that I chose several, but they all turned black as 
soon as I took them in my hands." 

&- ->- 



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According to the memoirs which appeared in her 
name, Rose Bertin probably went on a voyage to 
Germany and England in 1791-92. It is not im- 
probable that she was in England in 1791. We 
know, at least, that the Queen received no dresses 
from her between Jmie 18 and September 20, 1791, 
nor any trimmings from Jmie 24 to August 4, and 
Marie-Antoinette enjoyed discussing her toilettes with 
her dressmaker in person. 

Rose must therefore have been absent from Paris ; 
it has, in fact, been proved that she was in Germany in 
July, 1791. 

Parties and merry gatherings succeeded each other 
at Coblentz, as in the happy days at Trianon, so that 
we read in the memoirs of the Marquise de Laage, 
that " Mile. Bertin, the Queen's dressmaker, has 
followed her clients, and is exercising her talents in 
the new Court . . . the Court of Coblentz is not a 
whit less elegant than the Court of Versailles." 



Those were the joyous days of the Emigration. The 
Royal Family had taken up their residence at the Castle 
of Schoenbornhut,and their suite at the Deutsche- Haus. 
Meanwhile, certain of their followers viewed with 
anxiety the gaiety of their surroundings. " There are 
too many women at Coblentz," said the Chevalier Du 
Bray sadly. Mme. de Caylus, Mme. d' Autichamp, the 
Duchesse de Guiche, Mme. de Polastron, Mme. de 
Poulpry, Mme. de Valicourt, the Princesse de Monaco, 
held their salon there, and rivalled each other with the 
brilliance of their toilettes. " We ride or walk along the 
Bonn Road, and forgather at the Savage Cafe or the 
Three Crowns." In fact, to all appearance, it might 
have been a pleasant holiday spent at a fashionable 

Rose did not, however, remain at Coblentz, but 
returned to Paris for the winter. 

Peuchet, the recognized author of Mile. Bertin's 
memoirs, says, in speaking of a journey she took to 
Germany, that she had been sent on a mission by the 
Queen. Of this there is no proof, but the fact that 
Peuchet says it shows once more that even in his 
time it was well known that the Queen's dress- 
maker had not fallen into disfavour. Peuchet affirms 
that while in Vienna she obtained an audience of the 
Emperor Francis IL, during which she described to 
him the real political situation of France, the fears 
entertained at Court, and the perils to which 
Marie-Antoinette, her relatives, and her followers, 
were exposed. Peucher adds that she succeeded in 


overcoming Francis 11. 's prejudices against the Queen, 
his aunt. 

There is nothing surprising in the fact that the 
Queen should employ persons not holding any official 
or diplomatic post upon missions to foreign countries; 
it was the surest way of communicating with the 
outside world, without fear of her correspondence 
heing intercepted. In this Avay her hairdresser 
Leonard was despatched beforehand to the Marquis de 
Bouilld on occasion of the journey to Yarennes, and 
that upon the accession of Francis II., according to 
Mme. Campan, Marie-Antoinette found means of 
communicating her private feelings to the Emperor, 
and sent a letter of condolence upon Leopold 11. 's 
death in the ordinary way, it being understood that 
Barnave should read all her correspondence. 

We have ample proof that at this period different 
people, having no connection whatever with the 
diplomatic service, were charged with certain mis- 
sions, or acted as intermediaries in carrying con- 
fidential reports. 

Thus, M. Genet, who was expecting to be expelled 
from Russia, where he had been acting as French 
Charge d' Affaires since 1789, had drawn up instruc- 
tions for M. Patot d'Orflans, Charge d'Affaires of the 
General Consulate of France, dated July 24, 1792, 
recommending him to send his reports to the Minister 
of Foreign Affairs through the post in the shape of 
invoices or bills, of which the figures w^ould stand 
for a code of words agreed upon. The Minister, on 


his side, was to send his correspondence to the 
imaginary address of M. Laurent, care of Mme. de 
Monzouvre, a costumier.* 

There is therefore nothing astonishing in the fact 
that Marie- x\ntoinette should have employed a person 
whose loyalty was above suspicion, and sent her upon 
a mission to the Austrian Court. Rose Bertin's trade 
with foreign countries, and the voyages which were 
the outcome of that trade, saved her from suspicion ; 
given the fact that she was in need of a devoted 
messenger, it is impossible to suppose that the Queen 
would not have thought of her. 

In any case, if the journey to Vienna is not proved, 
there is irrefutable proof that she was in Germany in 
1792, and that she left Paris on July 1, 1792. 
Among the National Archives there exist two copies 
of " An Account of Certain Sums of Money remitted 
by Citizeness Bertin to her Paris Establishment, since 
her Departure on July 1, 1792." By these documents 
we learn that she was in Frankfort in August and in 
September, 1792 — thus: 

August 1, 1792: From Frankfort, by Citizen 

Messin, Rue de la Loi ... ... ... 9,140 

By Citizen Ibert, Place de PlfigaHte 15,394 

September 21, 1792: From Frankfort, by Citizen 

Prevost ... ... ... ... ... ... l,000f 

* " Recueil des Instructions donnees aux Ambassadeurs et 
Ministres de France, Russie,"' t. ii., par Alfred Rambaud. 

t Archives Nationales, Comite de Surete Generale, Serie 
F^, 4,596 et Emigration (Seine), Police Generale, Serie F^, 


Citizen Ibert was a relation of Rose's. Therefore 
Rose Bertin was not in Paris during the massacres 
of September ; she was not an eyewitness, in the Rue 
Richelieu, of the scenes of blood enacted in Paris on 
that tragic date, though she might perhaps have heard 
from her shop the distant murmur of tlie howling 
mob, as they promenaded the town, bearing aloft the 
pale, blood-stained head of the Princessede Lamballe. 
From the moment when, on the threshold of her 
prison, she was felled to the ground by a heavy blow, 
Mme. de Lamballe became the prey of the populace. 
Her head, severed from its trunk, was placed all 
bleeding on a pike, and escorted through the town by 
a degraded mob of tipsy harpies and drunken, brutal- 
faced men. Shouting obscene songs, they proceeded 
from the Rue des Ballets to the Temple, where the 
Royal Family was confined ; and from the Temple to 
the Palais-Royal, where the Due d'Orldans hearing the 
noise, and wishing to learn the cause, suddenly saw 
the ghastly thing appear close to his balcony, and 
fell back shuddering. Finally, the head which Rose 
Bertin had crowned ten years previously with the 
charming flowered hat which figures in Rioult's 
painting was borne fi-om the Palais- Roj^al to the Place 
du Chatelet, where a number of corpses were thrown 
that day, through the Rue Saint-Honor^, past Rose 
Be r tin's former house. With what a grief-stricken 
face would she not have listened to the cries of 
the mob as they crowded howling roimd the Due 
d'Orlean's house ! 


All the costumiers of Paris, however, did not share 
her feelings. The following is an extract from a 
letter sent to the army of the King of Prussia, 
addi^essed to the Marquise de Bressan : " Here is an 
anecdote which your brother would do well to tell 
the Duke of Brunswick. On the famous 10th, Mme. 
de Gemstorche, one of Mme. de Lamballe's ladies, 
threw herself, panic-stricken, into the arms of a Sans- 
Culotte, and begged him to spare her life. As he 
dragged her out of the crowd, with his blood-stained 
hands, she asked him to take her to his house. What 
was her astonishment to find that the wife of the raga- 
muffin was a dressmaker, and his mother a linen- 
draper! She spent the night with them, and they 
were most attentive ; but that is not the point — ^,the 
point is that our friends the * bourgeois ' are Sans- 
Culottes : drive it home, my dear. The next day 
they escorted her to the address she gave, after she 
had told them who she was. They limited them- 
selves to making horrible remarks about the Queen 
and Mme. Lamballe."''^' 

The news of the massacres and the names of the 
chief victims were speedily retailed throughout the 
length and breadth of Europe. Rose Bertin could 
then think with sorrow of the temporary misunder- 
standing that had clouded her relations with this 
same Princess ; how long ago it seemed, and yet liow 
near ! Perhaps her headstrong and haughty character 
had caused her to play an unworthy part in that 

* " Correspondance Originale des Emigres, 1793," Paris. 


T.J face page ■-'!< 


quarrel ; with what remorse, then, would she listen to 
the horrible details of the death of that woman, so 
joyous, elegant, amiable, full of vivacity, swept away 
in a whirlwind of confusion and terror on that terrible 
day ! It is notable that Rose Bertin's absence in 
1792 aroused the suspicions of the municipality of 
Epinay-sur- Seine. 

She owned a house at Epinay in the Rue du Bord 
de I'Eau, which she had acquired in 1782. Until 

then she had owned a countrv-house at Cires-les-Millo, 

■J ' 

on the road between Senlis and Beauvais, which she 
sold when she decided to remove to Epinay. Busy 
as she always was, it was infinitely more convenient 
to have a country-house nearer to her place of 
business than as far out as Cires-les-Mello, fifteen 
miles distant. 

The register of taxation for house property for 
Epinay in the year 1792 gives, in the paragraph 
relating to Mile. Bertin, a total of 112 livres 8 sols, 
and in the margin against her name is written : 
" Emigrated." At that period absence, however 
short, caused a rumour of emigration to be spread 
abroad. It is true that the rumour was often justi- 
fied, and a dressmaker to the Queen, above all, might 
well be suspected of having taken refuge abroad, 
especially by the authorities of a little country town, 
where the importance of her position must necessarily 
have been considerably exaggerated. There were, 
however, means of ascertaining ; it was simple enough 
to obtain news from Paris. The Bertin establish- 


ment was well known to the police of the Palais- 
Royal District. But the police investigation had 
been too hasty and too superficial. Informed of 
Mile. Bertin*s departure, they had jumped to the 
conclusion that she had joined her refugee clients 
abroad, and the word "Emigrated" had been pre- 
maturely written against her name. Later a note 
was added to the effect that the statement should be 
verified ; consequently Mile. Bertin's name appears on 
the register of 1793, and she is no longer considered 
as having emigrated. 

This register of taxes gives us some idea of the 
style in which Mile. Bertin lived in her country- 
house — "my Epinay," as she loved to call it. Ac- 
cording to the register, she was served by a " male 
servant and a female servant." The man was em- 
ployed to drive a trap (cabriolet), for which she paid 
a tax of 20 livres.* And we learn, further, that she 
paid 18 livres 15 sols for the six chimneys with 
which her country-house was furnished. 

In those days one was taxed for chimneys, in these 
for doors and windows ; there has been no great 
change — the exchequer is ever with us. In the 
question of taxes, to-day is as yesterday, to-morrow 
as to-day ; the sauce is more or less salted, that 
is all. 

In 1793, upon an income estimated at 1,814 livres 
16 sols, Mile. Bertin paid in taxes the exorbitant sum 

*' " Registre de Contribution Mobiliere et somptuaire 
d^lipinay, 1793." 


of 596 livres 4 sols. In truth, some Governments 
were not cheap ; they did not last long, it is true, but 
during the time they did last they ruined or terribly 
impoverished the nation. 

How Rose loved her country-house ! it was her 
miniature Trianon. There, in the shade of the trees, 
she could breathe pure air on Sundays, during the 
summer months, after the fevered rush of the week. 
On week-days she knew no idle moment ; from town 
she would hasten to the Court at Versailles, to 
La Muette, to Marly, to Fontainebleau ; then back to 
her establishment in the Eue de Richelieu, there 
to receive a crowd of great ladies, the majority of 
whom were most exacting ; then to attend to her 
foreign correspondence, whether with Spain, or Swe- 
den, England, Russia, Austria, Portugal, and so on. 
This concluded, there were still her orders for 
Le Normand, Yentzel, all the great Parisian houses ; 
there was the work of her ladies to be supervised, 
Mention, Sagedieu, and others ; and if there was still 
time, there were her accounts to be looked into. 
According to Maitre Grangeret, lawyer to her heirs, her 
account-books were in perfect order, but this appears 
to us to be greatly exaggerated. 

Her country-house was comfortable, but could 
scarcely be called luxurious. A three-storied house, 
containing a bath-room, which had been formerly a 
chapel, a billiard -room, stables, coach-house, a dove- 
cot, a terrace, and a wood which extended to the 
river. It did not cost an exorbitant sum of money, 


far from it ; Rose Bertin, who then lived in the 
Rue Saint-Honore, had bought it on March 2, 1782, 
for about 13,000 livres, from Jean- Jacques Gilbert de 
Fraigne, Plenipotentiary for Germany. She liked 
the property and increased it. On June 30, 1792, 
when the property which the Mathurins d'Emile 
(Montmorency) held at Epinay was put up for sale, 
she bought part of it, paying a sum of 46,075 livres, 
which, allowing for depreciation in assignats, amounted 
to 24,000 livres ; devoting to this purpose the money 
she had received from the sale of the Hotel des 
Chiens, which had just taken place. 

She was always happy to receive visitors at 
Epinay, and the Russian Princes, her clients, did 
not disdain to spend a few hours there. The Count 
Razoumowsky, amongst others, was a welcome visitor. 
** Deprived of the pleasure of the visit you promised 
to pay me at my Epinay," she writes to him in 1793, 
"judge of my surprise when I learnt from His Excel- 
lency the Ambassador that you had left for Germany. 
I was thus prevented from showing you at least 
twelve letters from the Countess, each one more 
amiable than the last, letters which are most dear 
to me. I am persuaded that we should both have 
wept over them, but one can but submit to the 
decree of Providence ; and I must be resigned to 
the grief I still feel at having been unable to take 
leave of you." 

These Russians of high rank did not treat the 
Queen's dressmaker as an ordinary tradeswoman. 


They frequently visited her, and sometimes made 
her presents. 

" I offer you a thousand thanks for the charming 
engraving you had the kindness to send me," writes 
Kose Bertin on December 4, 1794, to Countess 
Skavronsky, niece of Prince Potemkin, then at 
Naples, and who sent the souvenir referred to and 
a sum of money by the same post. 

"It is a real present for me, and I look upon it, 
and shall keep it, as the most precious gift I have 
ever received," adds Eose, doubtless with exaggerated 
fervour. The sum of 2,512 livres 10 sols which 
accompanied the gift must have been more pleasing 
to receive, as Rose's position was becoming more and 
more difficult, and to meet the calls upon her she had 
already been compelled to sell some of her jewellery. 
Thus the account-book of the aforesaid Countess 
Skavronsky states that she had bought from Rose 
Bertin in 1791, amongst other things, a gold chain, 
value 112 livres ; a painted bracelet mounted in gold, 
value 400 livres ; and a necklace of gold and pearls, 
value 388 livres. It was due time to call in old 
debts, and no easy matter to do so in the general 
confusion, when relations with foreign countries were 
becoming ever more strained, rendering comnmnica- 
tion difficult, and correspondence with the refugees 
dano^eruus. It was this which made Rose decide 
to go to Germany in July, 1792, which journey was 
the cause of her being entered on the list oi emigres. 

In 1792 Rose Bertin was still supplying Mme. Du 


Barry with toilettes. The last article was supplied 
to her on September 12 of that year, and consisted 
of a bonnet " edged with a double pleating of fine 
tulle, on a foundation of satin and gauze, and white 
satin ribbon," value 42 livres. A few days later 
Mme. Du Barry left for London, where a case was to 
be heard in the courts respecting a theft of diamonds 
which were stolen from her at Louveciennes. She 
remained there from October, 1792, to March 1, 1793, 
and would have shown wisdom in not returning to 
France, but was back in Louveciennes on March 23. 
From that day to June 2, the date of her arrest, we 
can find no trace of any new purchase at the dress- 
maker of Rue de la Loi. The better-known ladies 
of fashion learnt to forget the w^ay to the shops 
wdiere tempting articles waited them, and where in 
happier days they had loved to wdiile away the 
hours fingering chiffons and discussing new fashions. 
From the most virtuous bourgeoise to the most dis- 
solute courtesan, of all who had been known to the 
public or who possessed a title, none dared be seen 
in the streets of Paris, where the vengeance of a 
people long oppressed by the luxury of the great, 
a blind and brutal vengeance, made the gutters run 
with blood. 

The Royal Family was imprisoned ; but even in 
the Temple the Queen remained faithful to her 
ordinary tradespeople. Thus in Mme. Eloffe's 
journal w^e find a note to the effect that Marie- 
Antoinette owed her a sum amounting to 34 livres 


4 sols for goods supplied on August 18, 1792. In 
the Archives Nationales there exists a bill of Mme. 
Pompey for 115 livres 17 sols, dated August 12, 
1792,* and another of Mile. Bertin's, dated March 4, 
1793, amounting to 602 livres, for goods delivered at 
the Temple in August and September, 1792. f A 
decree from the Council-General is annexed ordering 
that the said bills be paid. Therefore, though Rose 
was absent, her Paris establishment was not closed. 

But what a meagre sum these 602 livres seem to 
be, after the fortune which Marie- Antoinette used 
formerly to spend ! And yet the prisoners of the 
Temple had been brought there almost, one might 
say, devoid of clothes, and the costume of blue 
taffeta which Rose had made for the Queen a lew 
days previously, and which cost 959 livres 10 sols, 
was too elegant for the dreary rooms of the Temple, 
where luxury was out of place, a sad contrast to the 
flowery surroundings of Trianon. 

During her confinement in the Temple, Marie- 
Antoinette wore a morning gown of white dimity, 
and a lawn cap ; at midday she changed this for a 
brown linen gown with a small flowered pattern. 
These were her only dresses until the day that the 
King was taken to the scaffold. Meanwhile Rose 
Bertin, while losing her old clients, found no new 
ones ; but inactive she could not remain, and turned 
her energies to the recovery of debts which hundreds 
of persons owed her. Thus she obtained from the 
* Archives Nationales, F^, 1,311. t Ibid. 


Countess Skavronsky the sum referred to above, and 
despatched piteous letters on all sides. 

On December 1, 1792, she wrote to Count Czerni- 
chefF : " My actual position compels me to beg the 
Count CzernichefF to come to my assistance." To 
Count Eazoumowsky she wrote : *' I beg you, Count, 
to take into consideration my total ruin." 

Among these debts were some important ones ; 
during her absence in 1792, Martincourt, a business 
man who had charge of her affairs, wrote on 
November 12 of that year to the Duke of Sudermaine, 
Regent of Sweden, as follows : " Circumstances having 
compelled Mile. Bertin to go abroad to attend to 
her business, her creditors have found among her 
accounts a bill against her deceased majesty the 
Queen of Sweden, amounting to 48,674 livres 
14 sols.* 

The Queen had many times begged her to go 
abroad, representing the danger to which she exposed 
herself by remaining in Paris. Rose arranged matters 
very skilfully ; on one side she bought the confiscated 
lands of the Mathurins de Montmorency for a hand- 
ful of crowns, and on the other, under an assumed 
name, sold her property in the Rue du Mail for 
820,000 livres. She made thus a profit of 36,000 
livres on the purchase price, and, using the deal at 
Epinay as a blind to the patriots, she was able with- 
out arousing suspicion to go abroad to place in 
safety the sum realized by the sale of her houses in 
* Collection de M. J. Doucet, Dossier 595. 


the Rue du Mail, in virtue of a deed set forth in the 
^' Minutes des Lettres de Ratification":* 

"Anne-Suzanne-Franqoise Gobelin, whose property 
is separated from that of her husband, Adrien-Nicolas 
de la Salle, Field- Marshal, represented by Louis-Rene 
Philippe, her lawyer, states that by a contract 
drawn up in the presence of Havard and his 
colleague, notaries of Paris, on October 16, 1792, 
registered in this town on the 19th of the same 
month by Guesnier, she acquired from Joseph 
Perrat, formerly army surgeon, residing in Paris, 
Cour de I'Arsenal, in the name of, and as procurator 
of, Marie-Jeanne Bertin, adult, in trade, usually 
residing in Paris, Rue de Richelieu, ward of the 
Butte-des-Moulins, two houses known by the name 
of the large and small Hotel des Chiens, situated in 
Paris, Rue du Mail, with all their appurtenances and 
tenements, without reserve, the said sale being made 
for the sum of 320,000 livres, upon the ordinary and 
customary charges. . . . 

** The said houses and hotels belonging to the said 
seller in virtue of a declaration made by Etienne- 
Louis Bonnard, lawyer, by a deed drawn up in the 
presence of Maulard, notary of Paris, on February 23, 
1788, who had become owner thereof in virtue of a 
lawsuit, preceded by the customary legal publications, 
made before Moreau, notary of Paris, on the said 

* "Minutes des Lettres de Ratification/' No. 2,369, 
Archives de la Seine. 



day, February 23, 1788, at the request of Pierre 
Roger, citizen of Paris, and of Marie Piery his wife, 
proprietors of the said houses, having become owners 
thereof by judgment of the Commission established 
at Chatelet to judge of the respective claims of Dame 
Ressons, Robiche, Yillars, and others, dated Novem- 
ber 26, 1776, followed by letters ratifying the same, 
published the following July. 

^' Given at Paris, January 16, 1793, second year 

of the Republic. 

'* (Signed) Monnot." 

Rose nevertheless kept herself well informed of 
the general situation of affairs. She learnt, therefore, 
that in the provinces as well as in Paris the gaps in 
the ranks of the nobility who patronized her grew 
ever more numerous, especially in Abbeville, where she 
had always had many clients. Already in June, 1792, 
she had despatched goods to M. de Selincourt, who 
had taken refuge in Liege ; Baron Duplouy, who had 
always been on friendly terms with her, had also left 
Abbeville and fled to Boulogne, from whence he took 
ship for England, and settled in Canterbury. 

All this did not tend to increase Rose Bertin's 
profits ; she wrote on the subject to her agent 
Martincourt, who devoted himself energetically to 
her creditors in Abbeville. The Republic confiscated 
the property of the dmhjrdR^ but paid their debts, 
while there was any capital to do so. There was 
no time to be lost. As a result of his efforts, 


Martincourt received the following circular, summing 
up his client's position : 

" The Administrators of the Department of la Somme 
to Citizen Martincourt^ Abbeville. 

"Citizen, — Respecting merchandise and goods sup- 
plied to emigrls^ the law of the 1st Floreal allows pay- 
ment to be made of such bills only of merchants and 
tradesmen as have been verified. This verification, 
according to the law of the 18th Pluviose last past, 
must be made by the central administration ; but when 
the creditors do not reside in the chief town, the 
municipal administrations of their respective towns 
are responsible." 

The closing of Duplouy's account was entered on 
the register of the secretary's office of the Abbeville 
District on December 23, 1792, first year of the 
French Republic* 

Rose Bertin, however, had not lost hope of return- 
ing to France ; and hearing that her name had been 
placed on the list of dmigr^s^ she spared no effort to 
to have it removed. 

Her representatives at Paris procured a certificate 
from the Commissioner of Police of the district 
Butte -des-Moulins, certifying that he had supplied 
Citizeness Bertin with a passport, dated June 28, 
1792; and that Charles - Jean Soldato, restaurant 

* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier 240. 


proprietor, 1,241 Rue de la Loi, and Luc-Joseph- 
Charles Corazza, proprietor of a coffee-house, No. 12, 
Maison figalit^, had been witnesses.* Rose's friends 
then prepared their case, and laid her claims before the 
authorities, receiving from them the following decree, 
dated November 27, 1792, first year of the Republic : 

" Having considered the memorial of Citizeness 
Marie -Jeanne Bertin, dressmaker of the Rue de 
Richelieu, by which she requests that the seals placed 
on her country-house at fipinay be removed ; having 
considered also the papers annexed to her memorial : 
(1) A statement of merchandise which she has de- 
spatched to Frankfort ; (2) a certificate from Citizen 
Chevry le Chesnes, dated November 16, 1792, testify- 
ing, in his capacity as carrier of Paris, that he de- 
spatched fifteen cases to Frankfort on the part of 
Citizeness Bertin ; (3) a note from Citizen Boc- 
queaux, dated September 10, 1792, announcing that 
he has despatched to Frankfort a box of feathers and 
silk ribbon in the name of Mile. Bertin ; (4) a certifi- 
cate from Citizen Messin, merchant of Paris, dated 
July 26y 1792, stating that, being in Frankfort on 
business last July, Citizeness Bertin entrusted to him, 
as a private matter, the sum of 9,140 livres, to be 
remitted to her establishment on his return to Paris ; 
(5) a letter from Citizen Ibert, dated from Ma3^ence, 
July 22, 1792, giving no address, which shows 

* Archives Nationales, Emigration (Seine), Police Gene- 
rale, Serie F', 5,612. 


that he has business relations with Mile. Bertin ; 
(6) three other letters written by Citizeness Bertin 
to her establishment in Paris, only one of which is 
dated from Brussels, August 24, which give an 
account of her transactions abroad, and of the sums 
of money she is sending to meet her expenses in 
Paris ; (7) a receipt given to Citizen Ibert, for the 
sum of 15,394 livres 16 sols 8 cleniers, dated Paris, 
July 31 , 1792, and signed by Omont for Mile. Bertin ; 

(8) a certificate from the Commissioner of Police of 
the district of Butte-des-Moulins, dated October 26, 
1792, showing that he delivered a passport, dated 
28th of the previous June, to Citizeness Bertin, who 
has taken with her to Frankfort four dressmakers to 
assist her in her business, according to her declaration ; 

(9) finally an acknowledgment, signed by two ad- 
ministrators of the Department of Paris, dated Epinay, 
October 26, 1792, stating that they have received 
from Citizen Nicolas Bertin a certificate of the 
district of Butte-des-Moulins, testifying to the non- 
emigration of his aunt, bourgeoise of Epinay, residing 
in Paris, Rue de Richelieu ; 

" The Procurator-General being advised — 
" The Directoire, considering that Citizeness Bertin 
has merely absented herself from France upon busi- 
ness, Decrees, in conformity with Article 6 of the law 
of April 8 last, that the seals placed upon the house 
belonging to Citizeness Bertin, situated at Epinay, 
shall be removed, and that she shall be reinstated in 
possession of all the furniture and effects of the said 


house. Power is given to the Council of the district 
of Saint- Denis to carry the present decree into 

No further obstacle remained to Mile. Bertin's 
return to France. 

On December 5, 1792, she reappeared in Paris, and 
hastened to set about the settlement of certain matters 
— made appointments, sent out bills, wrote letter 
upon letter ; her days were passed in a fever of haste. 
She lived in anxious impatience of a morrow which 
might be charged with fear, and which would infallibly 
be disastrous ; thus the dark December days were to 
her mind both too long and too short — too short for 
all she had to settle, too long for her burning desire 
to have done. 

On December 5 she wrote to a certain Thomassiny 
of Saint-Germain, asking whether he had received 
instructions to pay the sum of 9,996 livres upon a 
bill signed by the Portuguese Minister at Stockholm, 
Fernando Correa, payable on January 1, 1793. On 
December 24 she again wrote to Thomassiny, stating 
that she had waited a week for his answer, and re- 
questing him to remit the money during the course 
of the following week. He did not comply with her 
request, and on January 11, 1793, Rose wrote again, 
pressing for an appointment, but Thomassiny still 
continued to evade her. 

Rose Bertin^s importunate letters suddenly ceased, 
and on February 15, 1793, Martin court took the 
matter up and wrote for an appointment. It was 


To face page ii30 


Martincourt again who, on February 12, sent in a list 
in Mile. Bertin's name of the principal debts clue to 
her from the ^migr^s, to the office for the liquidation 
of the debts of the e^migr^s. 

What had taken place between January 11 and 
February 12 ? Rose Bertin had again left Paris. 
The condemnation and execution of Louis XVI. 
(January 15-21) were connected with this sudden 
decision. Rose had understood that the Queen's 
fears were not groundless, that she had clearly seen 
the position, and had been right in advising her to 
leave France. Rose had grasped the fact that she 
was no longer safe, that she, too, had exercised a 
certain royal power, costly and frivolous, and that 
the debts of the Queen's household might rise against 
and crush her. Did not the brother of the celebrated 
Leonard fall a victim to the Terror ? 

Besides, she had a retreat already prepared in 
London, where she had stayed on several occasions, 
and from whence she would be free to superintend 
her foreign commerce. We learn from a letter of 
Martincourt's, dated March 14, 1793, that Rose had 
indeed taken refuge in London. " Mile. Bertin left 
me in charge of her affairs before her departure for 
London, where she now is,"''^ he wrote to the 
Marquise de Mesmes, who owed the Bertin estalJish- 
ment a sura of 482 livres 5 sols for orders carried 
out l)etween 1777 and 1786. 

She left without advertising the fact, telling merely 
* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier 482. 


a few well-tried friends of her intention, being 
particularly careful not to let it be suspected in 
Abbeville, her native town, where she was well known, 
the danger being even greater there than elsewhere. 
The worthies who ruled the town were, according to 
Count Alexandre de Tilly, the *' most arrant dema- 
gogues," though they were far from being equal to 
those who terrorized Arras, Cambrai, and other pro- 
vincial towns. But Rose considered it prudent, and 
she was no doubt right, to preserve the strictest 
incognito in passing through. 

Nevertheless, she let even her own household 
believe that, as on the previous occasion, the journey 
was undertaken for business purposes. We learn 
this from a letter which her servant Colin wrote her 
on March 19, communicating the result of a lawsuit 
between herself and a certain Constard de Villiers 
which had been settled the previous day : " I am 
delighted, mademoiselle, to give you satisfactory news 
of a country where your presence is expected and de- 
sired by all those who, like myself, are devoted to you." 

"During my stay in Brussels" (August, 1792), 
writes the Countess of Dantzic, Ambassadress of 
Prussia, " Mile. Bertin undertook various orders for 
me, which she finally caused to be executed by a 
dressmaker of Paris, informing me that pressing 
business had compelled her to leave that night 
for London, from whence she hoped to return 
shortly."^ She probably hoped that events would 

* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier, 178 bis. 


occur which would facilitate her return, and that her 
exile would be a short one, instead of which this 
voluntary exile became a compulsory one/' 

Her enemies, perhaps those whose envy she had 
aroused, or even perhaps her debtors, denounced her, 
accused her of having emigrated. In virtue of the 
law of March 28, 1793, she was again entered on the 
list of refugees, and seals replaced on her property. 
She could no longer think of returning to France 
until her position had been again explained and 
recognized ; she was under the rigour of the law, and 
we know what such rigour could mean. 

All she could do was to keep up her establishment 
in Paris, by remitting such sums of money as she was 
able to collect abroad upon the numerous sums owing 
to her. 

Thus the establishment of the Rue de Richelieu 
seems to have resisted the storm more or less, which 
the following lines, written by Martincourt to the 
Countess Jules de Rochechouart on August 17, 1793, 
seem to prove : 

" The persons who have the management of Mile. 
Bertin s shop forgot to mention, when you were 
there, a bill of 1,561 livres 2 sols. . . .* 

The persons who had the management of 
Mile. Bertin's shop must have found time hang 
heavily on their hands, when most of the great 

* Collection J. Doucet, Dossier 609. 


milliners and costumiers had been compelled to close 
their doors, having nothing to do ! 

An Englishwoman, Helen Mary Williams, has 
given an able description of the state of mind of the 
women of that period — a state of mind which amply 
explains the paralysis of all trade in articles of 

"Frenchwomen," she says, ** cherish the glory of 
their country as much as women of other nations ; and 
if our Englishwomen deck themselves with Duncan 
dresses, Prince of Orange ribbons, in honour of valiant 
leaders, Frenchwomen wore Belle Poule bonnets or 
hats d la Grenade^ a la d'Estaing, a la Fayette, or 
even to the honour of M. Necker — an unmistakable 
proof of their devotion to the heroes and statesmen of 
their nation. It is true that there have been no 
fashions in honour of the new regime, but the 
Revolution, in their eyes, was an event of which the 
success was doubtful and the result to be feared. The 
Republic which has been the outcome of it has often 
worn a severe and threatening aspect, which has 
filled men with awe ; is it surprising that my sex has 
repulsed its fraternal embrace ?" 

A few customers came now and again to make 
modest purchases. Thus the establishment supplied 
Mme. d'Epr^m^nil, on April 25, 1793, with a bridal 
hat of the value of 3 livres. What irony ! After 
decking all the nobility of Versailles and Europe in 
brocade, silk, and jewels, to be reduced to receiving 
mediocre customers and supplying them with cheap 



little bridal hats, at a price which fishwives would 
have mocked at ! 

In fact, the establishment was only kept up to 
enable Martincourt to liquidate the property. 

Shortly after the execution of the King, the 
Commune of Paris, in virtue of the law of August 12, 
1792, settled all bills for goods supplied to the 
Temple during the last four months of 1792. The 
bills presented by Rose Bertin, who was instructed to 
send them to the Temple, and of which we have 
already spoken, form part of a packet preserved 
among the Archives Nationales.* 

The first is a document which runs as follows : 

=*Law of August 12, 1792. 

*' Statement of Sums to he paid 
Persons Jor Certain Outlays for 
Toiver of the Temple : 

Item : To Citizens 
Bertin (citizeness), dressmaker 
Bosquet, tailor 
Boulanger-Blet, grocer 
Destrumel, glass-seller 
Durand junior, locksmith 
Gatineau, coal-merchant 
Giot, shoemaker 
LabouUee, perfumer ... 
Lefebvre and Thoret, linen-drapers 
Le Roy, fruiterer 

to the folloiving 
the Service of the 

Livres a. d. 


1 ,427 5 7 



1,445 12 



144 17 



*" Archives Nationales, F^ 1,311. Signature du 7 A vril, 


Livres ». d. 

Mulard, proprietor of a restaurant ... ... 960 11 

Pazzy, tailor ... ... ... ... ... 144 

Piquet, porter of the stable of the mounted 

guard ... ... ... ... ... 109 4 

Rasse, formerly chef of the kitchen, for 

nineteen days' wages ... ... ... 211 2 

Simon, laundry man ... ... ... ... 1411 

Wolff, shoemaker ... ... ... ... 169 

Total 8,533 2 7 

" In name of the Republic Commissaries, etc., cause 
payment to be made, in accordance with the decrees 
of the Council- General of the Commune of Paris of 
November 18, 1792, January 10 and March 4 last, 
of the sum of 8,533 livres 2 sols 7 deniers, to the 
persons named in the above, according to the sum 
due to each respectively, for work done and goods 
supplied for the service of the Tower of the Temple 
during the four last months of 1792 j the said sum 
of 8,533 livres 2 sols 7 deniers to be paid from the 
500,000 livres which, by the law of August 12, 1792, 
were allotted for the expenses of the ex-King and his 

"Given at Paris, April 7, 1793, in the second 
year of the Republic." 

This account is followed by another for goods 
supplied during the first two months of 1793, but 
only Boulanger, Gatineau, Le Roy, and Mulard are 
named therein. 

The same packet further contains the following 
decree : 


" Commune of Paris ^ March 4, 1793, second year of the 
French Republic, one and indivisible. Extract from 
the Registers of the Deliberations of the Council- 

"The Council- General, having considered the 
report of the commission charged with the exam- 
ination of the accounts of the Temple, 

" Decrees that the Minister of the Interior shall 
pay, from the 500,000 livres allotted for the main- 
tenance of the family of Louis Capet, to Citizen {sic) 
Bertin, merchant, the sum of 602 livres in payment 
of the annexed bills, which shall be left annexed to 
these presents. For articles supplied in August, 
602 livres. 

" (Signed) Pache, Mayor ^ President. 

" Extract in conformity with the original. 

" CouLOMBEAU, Towu Clerk J' 

The annexed bills are those which were presented 
by Rose Bertin's establishment, amounting, one to 
806 livres, the other to 55, making a total of 
861 livres, reduced by Verdier, appointed to verify 
the accounts of the Tower of the Temple, to 
570 livres for the first, and 32 for the second — that 
is, the above total of 602 livres. We give them 
on the next page : 


First Bill : No. 1^, furnished by Bertin^ Dressmaker 

Item ; Livres. 

August 12, 1792 : A gauze bonnet with blonde 

lace and pink ribbon ... ... ... 27 42 

A gauze bonnet with tulle and white gauze 

ribbon ... ... ... ... ... 30 44 

Three fichus of English gauze at 16 livres... 36 48 
Two wide demi-fichus of gauze of Cham- 
berry at 10 livres ... ... ... ... 14 20 

Four large demi-fichus of embroidered 

Organdy at 27 Hvres 84 108 

A skirt of very fine open-work embroidered 
Indian muslin, containing five breadths . . . 
One piece of wide white ribbon 
One piece of narrow ditto ... 
One white favour 
One short cambric cloak trimmed with 

stitched bands 
Two cardboard boxes 
August 19, 1792 : A short cloak of black taffeta 

with trimming of the same ... ... ... 40 54 

August 29, 1792 : One shape for a Malines 

bonnet, lined with lawn ... ... ... 16 30 

September 5, 1792 : One shape for a Malines 

bonnet, lined with lawn, and fichu ... ... 16 30 

570 806 

Seen and verified by us. Commissioner of the 
Accounts of the Temple. 















Reduction . . . 236 

— Verdier. 


Second Bill : Furnished hy Bertin^ Dressmaker. 

Item : Livres. 

September 13, 1792 : Shape and trimming of a 

bonnet with lawn fichu ... ... ... 5 9 

A fichu of IJ ells of black taffeta with black 

satin border ... ... ... ... ... 12 19 

September 20, 1792 : Shape and trimming for a 

bonnet with lawn fichu ... ... ... 5 9 

September 30, 1792 : Shape and trimming for 

lawn bonnet ... ... ... ... ... 5 9 

September 5, 1792 : Shape and trimming for lawn 

DonneL ... ... ... ... ... ... o o 

32 55 

This bill was omitted from the memoradum of C. 
Cleri, and should follow No. 16 of said memo- 




Reduction ... 23 


In the same packet (F^, 1,311) there is another 
statement for this period, in which figures a bill for 
115 livres 17 sols owing to Mme. Pompey, milliner ; 
the document gives the name as Lompey. Rose 
Bertin was therefore not the only milliner who was 
permitted to supply the needs of the ladies of the 
Temple. There was still another, a Mme. Augier, 
who gives her address as No. 22, Rue Saint-Nicaise, 
two of whose bills for articles supplied, one of 
August and September, 1792, the other of January, 


1793, are also preserved among the National Archives 
(F^, 1,313). The first is for 518 livres 6 sols, the 
second for 49 livres. 

After October 5, 1792, there is no further mention 
of any articles supplied to the Temple by the Bertin 
establishment. There may have been others, but the 
bills had not been presented when there was question 
of beginning proceedings against the Queen. It is 
related that the dressmaker, knowing that an in- 
quiry was to be made, and being aware beforehand 
in what spirit the commissioners would carry out 
their inquiry, was known to have been greatly 
agitated one evening. 

Her account-books still showed heavy sums due 
from Marie- Antoinette. To erase or write over these 
was an impossibility ; the commissioners would have 
discovered the deception without difficulty^ and the 
Queen be even more compromised in the eyes of 
Fouquier-Tinville. There was but one way of 
effacing the Queen's debts, and that was by destroying 
all proof of them ; but to do this meant that all 
entries of sums due from other clients which figured in 
those books would be equally destroyed, and the loss 
was very considerable. Torn by personal interest 
and by gratitude towards Marie- Antoinette for the 
favours she had showered on her, for the fortune she 
had earned through her patronage, for the world-wide 
reputation she had acquired thanks to the Queen — 
a glory which, though dead, still flattered her pride- — 
Rose Bertin never hesitated, her generous nature did 


not shrink from this supreme effort, and with her own 
hands she burnt all account-books which contained 
sums of mone}^ still due from Marie- Antoinette. This, 
at least, is the story that was spread abroad, and which 
she was careful not to deny. The Marquise de 
Courtebourne alluded to it in 1817 when writing to 
Grangeret, lawyer for Rose Bertin's heirs : 

" Mile. Bertin was the soul of delicacy and up- 
rightness, according to what I have always heard. 
Her conduct towards our unfortunate Queen amply 
proved it." 

However, what she succeeded in hiding or destroy- 
ing could not have been of any great importance. 
The Revolutionary Government could be advised of all 
the Queen's expenses up to August 10, 1792, the last 
unpaid bills of the two last years of Louis XYI.'s 
reign being in the hands of Henry, liquidator of the 
civil estate, and the expenses contracted in the Temple 
could be easily checked by the gaolers of the royal 
prison. All she could have done, therefore, would 
have been to come to an understanding with Henry 
not to produce the bills he held, which is perhaps 
what happened, as these unpaid bills cost the dress- 
maker more than 35,000 livres, still unrecovered at 
the time of her death. 

But there was no question of a suit against the 
Queen when the dressmaker was in Paris in December, 
1792, and January 1793; she could not, therefore, have 
burnt the books with her own hands at the time of 
the process, as she was then in London, and unable to 



return to France, where new measures had been taken 
against all French subjects whose names were 
inscribed on the list of emigres. 

She had been already eight months in London, when 
on September 17, 1793, the law against suspects was 
passed, which law was directed against those citizens 
who had emigrated since July, 1789, and even against 
those who had returned to France within the term 
fixed by the law of April 8, 1793. A decree issued 
by the Council -General of the Commune on Octo- 
ber 16, 1793, the very day of Marie- Antoinette's 
execution, increased the difficulty of the merchants of 
Paris who, like Rose, were abroad, by ordaining that 
every merchant, established at least a year, who left 
his business would be considered as a suspect, and 
arrested as such.* 

How was it possible to return to France under 
such circumstances ? How escape the vigilance of 
the police, who were already armed with the decree 
issued by the Assembly on March 29, 1793, ordaining 
that " all landlords and principal tenants of houses 
should be compelled to affix on the outside of their 
doors, in a prominent position and in legible letters, 
the names, surnames, ages, and professions, of all 
individuals actually or habitually residing on their 

There was certainly no chance of slipping through 
the tight meshes of the net woven by the police of 

* " Actes de la Commune." 

t Dauban, " La Demagogic en 1793.'' 

# mm; 

■ -3i^ ■ 1 ,1; 



To face page -4'J 


the Revolution to catch all suspects. For the second 
time Rose's absence saved her from witnessing a 
tragic scene, which, like the murder of the Princesse 
de Lamballe, and even more so, would have cruelly 
pierced her heart, and which, from the route followed 
by the cortege which escorted Marie- Antoinette to 
the guillotine, she must inevitably have partly 

As the fatal car passed along the Rue Saint- 
Honore the ex-Queen could see only strange faces 
at the window of Rose Bertin's old house. Perhaps 
she thought, however, of the day when, on her way 
to Notre Dame, she turned in her carriage to applaud 
her dressmaker. 

Since then Rose Bertin had transferred her estab- 
lishment to some distance ; but the whole route was 
full of painful memories for the Queen. At the 
corner of the Rue de Richelieu, thinking of the far- 
distant days of Trianon, perhaps she saw once more 
a young and pretty woman, followed by an elegant 
and joyous Court, walking in the shady alleys, letting 
the train of her flowered lawn dress sweep the first 
dead leaves strewn on the ground. 

Where were the light dresses, the state costumes, 
puffs and feathers ? What had become of all the 
articles of clothing consigned to the Temple ? Into 
whose hands had they fallen ? The inventory of the 
Queen's effects after her execution mentions but one 
head-dress, a lawn one. 

What remained of past elegance and luxury ? 


What had become of that society which for so many- 
years had besieged Mile. Bertin s establishment, and 
made it possible for her to live in grand style ? The 
guillotine had ruined her trade by decimating the 
remnant of her customers, already much diminished 
by emigration. She had lost large sums of money ; 
the majority of the fugitives, in the hurry of flight, 
had no time or no means to pay their debts. The 
Princesse de Lamballe had been murdered ; the 
Duchesse d'0rl6ans was prisoner ; the guillotine had 
claimed Marie- Antoinette, Mme. Elizabeth, Mme. Du 
Barry, General de Custine, President d'Ormesson, etc.; 
Mme. Auguier, Lady-in- Waiting to the Queen, had 
killed herself by jumping from a window of the 
Tuileries for fear of being arrested. 

On the other hand, the list of ^niigr^s grew daily 
longer. Amongst others the Bertin establishment 
could count the Countess Beon de Beam, of the suite 
of Mme. Adelaide ; the Countess de Bercheny ; the 
Marchioness and Duchess Choiseul ; the Marchioness 
de Chabrillant ; the Duchess d'Harcourt ; Mile. 
Dillon ; Baron Duplouy ; Count and Countess de 
Durras ; the Count de Thiard, first Equerry of the 
Duke d'Orleans ; the Countess de Gonzague ; the 
Countess de Laage ; Count Auguste de Lamarck ; 
the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg ; the Mar- 
chioness of Marboeuf ; the Marchioness of Margency; 
the Marchioness and Countess de Menou ; the 
Countess de Montalembert ; Baron Nansouty ; Vis- 
countess de Polastron; the Marchioness de Pompignan; 


Viscountess de Preissac ; the Duchess de Polignac ; 
Count d'Artois ; the Princess de Rochefort ; the 
Countess de Pochechouart ; the Marchioness de 
Tonnerre ; Countess de Yergennes ; and even a 
costumier of Dijon named Th6venard, who died on 
August 20, 179o, in the hospital of the army of the 
Prince de Conde at Schifferstadt. He had figured 
amone: Rose Bertin's clients — at least since 1782. 

Those who were not dead or who had not emigrated 
burrowed underground ; there, in cardboard boxes 
covered with tissue paper, slept in dusty graves the 
last finery received from Rose Bertin. 

Meanwhile the s^reat dressmaker's accent carried on 
an active campaign in Paris for the recovery of sums 
of money still owing from emigreSy and produced his 
bills at the office for the liquidation of their estates ; 
while Rose Bertin endeavoured as far as possible to 
collect debts owing to her in foreign countries. 

Thus on February 13, 1793, she remitted from 
London the sum of 9,762 livres, and on May 23 of 
the same year 20,000 livres ; on May 27 another 
2,000 livres, and again on August 28 13,091 livres. 
Still another 14,000 livres was remitted by her, as 
is shown by a report preserved among the National 
Archives,* and a note is appended to the effect that 
" Citizeness Marie- Jeanne Bertin has made payments 
in her Paris establishment, from July, 1792, to 

* Archives Nationales, Comitd de Surete Generale, Serie 
F"^, 4,596, et Emigration (Seine), Pohce Generale, Serie F*^, 


the close of December, 1793, Old Style, amounting to 
475,343 livres 4 sols 8 deniers, to poor Sans-Culotte 
workmen, workers on gauze, ribbons, flowers, feathers, 
embroideries, workgirls, nearly all burdened with 

Among the debts which Martincourt had to recover 
were some of very long standing. The Marquis de 
Chabrillant had owed a sum of 378 livres since the 
year 1779. The Marquis, who was a favourite with 
women, frequented the wings, and had had lor 
mistress successively Rosalie Loguerre and Mile. 
Guinard, of the Opera. No doubt the article ordered 
in the Rue Saint- Honore, and for which he forgot 
to pay, was for one of them. He was not the 
only one who suffered from forgetfulness of this 

The Marchioness de Bouill6, who died in 1803 
without paying any part of her debt to Rose Bertin, 
had opened an account in 1774, which in 1786 stood 
at 6,791 livres. The Countess de Salles owed the 
sum of 1,148 for goods supplied between the years 
1778 and 1781 ; the Count and Countess Duras 
owed 7,386 livres for articles supplied dui^ing the 
years 1774 to 1789 ; Count Auguste de Lamarck's 
bill stood at 1,558 for orders executed between 
1774 and 1775; the Chevalier de Saint-Paul owed 
1,343 livres for orders given for a friend of the 
Princess de Laval in 1778. Vicountess Polastron 
had left a balance of 19,960 livres owing ; Princess 
de Rochefort, 10,904 livres; the Marchioness de 


Tonnerre, a balance of 10,946 livres, part of which 
was for articles supplied on occasion of the journey 
of the Court to Fontainebleau in 1775. 

It is obvious that the recovery of these debts, 
which had not been possible w^hile the debtors enjoyed 
pensions and incomes, and occupied some of the most 
lucrative posts under the monarchy, now became 
very problematical, and in fact poor Rose drained a 
bitter draught. 

After her death her heirs pursued her debtors, and 
succeeded in recovering part of the sums still owing 
in 1813, in spite of which the bad debts amounted to 
490,000 francs. 

The position of milliners and costumiers became 
steadily worse in Paris ; one by one the shops of the 
great dressmakers and milliners closed their doors, as 
the orders they received did not even cover their 

Rose Bertin, however, was not easily discouraged, 
nor was she given to wasting time in vain lamenta- 
tions. She had been bold and enterprising all her 
life long, and she remained active throughout the 
whole of that period in which people's true value was 
discovered. There was no further use for the mask 
imposed by worldly society, and souls were laid bare 
in all their strength or in all their weakness. The 
fogs of the Thames and the smoky atmosphere of 
London worked no change in Rose's character ; and if 
she sometimes grieved at being far from the Rue de 
Richelieu, and deprived of the beautiful air of Epinay, 


yet she had discovered a way of continuing the active 
life she had led in France. 

On the one hand she continued to do business with 
her foreign clients, and on the other she devoted her 
energies to the recovery of debts owing in Russia, 
Sweden, Spain, and elsewhere. She was also in 
constant communication with Martincourt, but for 
this the greatest prudence was required. Thus 
" anyone arriving from a distant land, bearing a 
letter for the Rue Richelieu, had first to discover, 
before setting out in search of it, that it was now 
called Rue de la Loi ; to ask for it by its former name 
laid one open to arrest, and aroused suspicion."* 

Rose made use of a young Englishman, with whose 
mother she was living, as bearer to her agent of the 
bill owmg by the Countess de Dantzic, Ambassadress 
of Prussia. We have already spoken of the letter 
in which the Countess says : *' During my stay in 
Brussels, Mile. Bertin undertook various orders for 
me, which she finally caused to be executed by a 
dressmaker of Paris, informing me that pressing 
business had compelled her to leave for London 
that very night, from whence she hoped shortly to 
return." These orders were given in August, 1792, 
when Rose passed through Brussels, and were 
delivered between October 25 and December 16, 
according to the date of the bill, which amounted to 
2,581 livres, on which is written a note to the effect 

'' Duchesse d'Abrantes, " Histoire des Salons de Paris," 
etc., t. iii. 


that it *' is extracted from a little book brought by 
the son of a lady with whom Mile. Bertin lived whilst 
in London." 

She multiplied more and more her letters to clients 
in foreign countries, demanding payment of the 
moneys due to her. To Fernando Correa, Portuguese 
Ambassador at Stockholm, she wrote begging him 
to place the sum of 9,996 livres in the hands of M. de 
Chapeau - Rouge, banker of Hamburg, and stating 
that, as she was soon going to that town, she hoped 
to find that the sum had been deposited with her 
banker ; otherwise she was determined to push on to 
Stockholm in order to obtain justice. In any case 
she did not find the money, which she greatly needed, 
at the Hamburg bank. 

She was really pressed at this time, and used every 
endeavour to recover her money. M. des Entelles 
recalls her passing through Mannheim at this period, 
in a letter in which he says : " In exile I frequently 
met Mile. Bertin at Mannheim, where we lived, and 
for a fortnight we took our meals together daily at 
the same inn." * He had been, besides, acquainted with 
her a long time, enjoyed her conversation, and remem- 
bered with pleasure the time he used to meet her 
with the Queen. He adds that later they frequently 
met at St. Petersburg. 

Her business in Russia was very considerable, and 
her relations with Russian high society had been 
always ]Deculiarly intimate. 

* Collection J. Doucet, Dossier 196. 


But before going to Russia, Rose Bertin had 
written letter upon letter to explain to her customers 
the position to which she had been brought by 
political events. In one of her letters of 1797, 
addressed to Princess Galitzin, sister of the General, 
she says : "The unfortunate circumstances in which 
I am placed compel me to profit by the departure of 
the Prince de Konrakin, to send you an account for 
which I have long waited."* 

'* Let me tell you in confidence,'* she wrote again 
to Princess Galitzin, "that I lent Count Schou- 
valoff* 80,000 livres to prevent him from pawning 
that very day his medal, his epaulettes, and his 

crosses, "t 

This was Count Andr6 SchouvalofF, who died in 
1789, and who was very well known in Paris, where he 
lived in great style — too great, as we may see. He 
frequented literary circles, and Marmontel, Helvetius, 
Chamfort, La Harpe, and Voltaire, were among his 
acquaintances, and he was an assiduous guest in 
Mme. du Deffant's salon. It was he who wrote the 
'' Epitre a Ninon,'* which was attributed to Voltaire. 
But he did not limit himself to these social visits, 
which would not have caused him to exceed his 
income to the extent of being compelled to pawn his 
most precious possessions. Thus, while the Russian 
nobles led a reckless life in Paris, leaving many of 
their feathers in places of pleasure where one is 

* Collection J. Doucet, Dossier 59^ bis. 
t Ihid.^ Dossier 649. 


ruined and plucked, and making a display of luxury 
far beyond their means, they obtained financial 
support from the milliner, who was crazed on them, 
and whom they speedily forgot when her generosity 
had saved them from the shame of a public 

On June 12, 1793, she appealed to Count 
CzernitchefF to pay 8,800 livres, balance of a debt 
owed by his parents. The latter at least paid their 
debts ; they had owed 21,000 livres, and death alone 
had prevented them from paying the balance. " The 
confidence which the Count and Countess did me the 
honour of bestowing on me during twenty years," * 
she wrote to their heir in the hope of adding weight 
to her claim, but from that side she received nothing 
but disappointment. 

Ill-fortune seemed to pursue her. On December 20, 
1793, the bankers Veuve Lelen et Cie. paid to her 
agent in Paris, in payment of the Queen of Sweden's 
account, the sum of 20,105 livres ; but the law was 
rigid, and Martincourt was compelled to deposit the 
money in the National Exchequer. This payment 
was the outcome of a claim forwarded to the King of 
Sweden, through Lelen, banker of the Rue des 
Jeimeurs, on the 17th of the previous February. 
The acknowledgment, signed by Citizen Cornu, is 
dated 16 Fructidor, year II. (September 2, 1794), 
and Citizeness Bertin figured then on the list of 
^migr^Sj as is shown by a letter dated May 27, 1795, 
* Collection J. Doucet, Dossier 649. 


which says, *' Then inscribed on the list of emigres,'' 
which proves, on the other hand, that at that date she 
had succeeded in getting her name removed from the 

Nevertheless the administration continued its work 
of confiscation. We find proofs of this activity in 
the national records : 

" Comdte de SuretS Generate, 14 Prairial, year II, 
of the French Repuhlicy 07ie and indivisihte. To the 
Commissioners of National Revenues. 

" Citizen L. Aumond, — We learn that the person 
named Bertin, formerly Court dressmaker, owns a 
house near Franciade, independently of the one she 
owned at Paris. We call your attention to the measures 
it is necessary to adopt, in order to place this property 
at the disposal of the Republic. 

" The two representatives of the people, members 
of the Comite de Surete Generale : 

"(Signed) Elie Lacoste. 

Louis (of the Lower Rhine). 


The archives of the Seine tell us the result of this 
information, supplied by the Comity de Surete 
Gdnerale : 

* Archives Nationales, Comite de Surete Generale, Serie 
F^ 4,596. 

3 -^5' 


'^ Equality, Liberty. 

" The Administrators of Registration and of National 
Estates. To Citizen Gentil, Director, Paris. Paris, 
3 Messidor, year II. of the French Republic^ one 
and indivisible. 

"The Commissioners of the National Revenues have 
informed us that they are advised by the Comite 
de Surete Gen^rale that the woman Bertin, dress- 
maker, emigree, possessed a house near Franciade 
independently of the one she owned in Paris ; that 
they have written to the department to discover 
whether both these properties are in the hands of the 
nation ; and if they are not, the commissioners 
recommend us to take such measures as are necessary 
to carry the matter into execution. 

** You will please write to our agent at Franciade, 
to know whether the country-house owned by the 
dressmaker Bertin is in the hands of the Republic ; 
of what the house consists ; what use has been made 
of it ; whether it is furnished, and whether seals have 
been placed on it by the district ; in which case 
whether it is proposed to make an inventory and 
proceed with the sale thereof. You will instruct 
him to furnish this information as early as possible, 
and you will kindly forward it to us. 

'' We request you to report to us also the measures 
that have been taken with respect to the house in 

[Here the signatures follow.] 


The Director of Registration, etc., forwarded the 
commissioners orders two days later : 

*' Paris, 5 Afessidor, year II. of the French Republic^ 
one and indivisible. The Director, etc., to Citizen 

" The Commissioners of National Revenues, having 
received information from the Comity de Surety 
Gen^rale that the woman Bertin, dressmaker, owned 
a house near Franciade, wrote to the department to 
inquire whether this property is in the hands of the 
nation ; and in case it should not be, they recommend 
the National Agency to take such measures as may 
be necessaiy to carry the matter into execution. 

*' In compliance with the desire of the commission, 
the administrators of the National Agency wish to 
know whether the house in question, which is situated 
at fipinay, is in the hands of the Republic ; of what 
it consists ; whether it is furnished ; whether the seals 
of the district have been placed thereon ; and, in the latter 
case, whether it is proposed to make an inventory of 
the effects, and to proceed with the sale thereof. 

** You will kindly procure this information and 
transmit it to me as early as possible."* 

The next day a more peremptory order was issued 
on the subject : 

* Archives de la Seine, Carton 709. 


" 6 Messidor, year II. 

" Le D. de l'Ad. au C. Sapinant. 

'' You will please to take the necessary proceed- 
ings against the emigres Bertin, formerly dressmaker. 
You will report to me what you have done in this 

Meanwhile Rose Bertin had opened a shop in 
London, very modest in comparison with her estab- 
lishments of the Rue Saint-Honore and the Rue 
Richelieu. There she executed the orders of her 
foreign customers. ^' Despatched from London on 
June 25, 1794, to the Countess," we read in a state- 
ment of articles supplied to the Countess de Razon- 
mowsky. In any case Rose Bertin displayed an 
energy which might have served as an example 
to other emigres. 

But events succeeded events with lightning speed. 
The Revolutionary Tribunal had turned its blood- 
stained hand upon itself It might still relentlessly 
pursue its accursed work, striking blindly, heaping 
up corpses ; Death strode through the courts, threaten- 
ing equally judges and accused. Carts might follow 
each other along the road to the scaffold, and 
7 Thermidor might still sweep away more of Rose's 
old clients ; indeed, the Count de Clermont-Tonnerre, 
the Count de Thiard, Princesse de Chimay, whom 
Rose used frequently to meet when she was Lady-in- 
Waiting to Marie- Antoinette, were among the last 


batch of victims. Still, the Terror was over, Robe- 
spierre fell on the morrow, and France began once 
more to breathe, to hope, to live. 

The news of the tyrant's death rejoiced Rose, who 
began to see some possibility of returning to Paris. 

She redoubled her efforts to have her name struck 
off the list of emigres. Claude Charlemagne, one of 
her nephews, and Martincourt, her devoted agent, 
showed praiseworthy energy in their endeavour to 
attain this object. 

A first petition was drawn up and addressed to 
the Directoire of the Department of Paris : * 

" Citizeness Bertin, dressmaker of Paris, owed con- 
siderable sums to workmen and artisans, true Sans- 
Culottes, whom she has employed over twenty years. 
Seeing that her trade in France was absolutely 
paralyzed, she procured a passport and went into 
foreign lands to vsell the merchandise remaining to 
her, the sale of which was absolutely necessary in 
order to meet her liabilities. 

"The events of the war prevented her from selling 
her merchandise as promptly as she desired, and she 
was face to face with the unhappy alternative of 
prolonging her stay in a foreign land or of failing 
her creditors. 

" Some ill-disposed persons, no doubt her debtors, 
perhaps some ci-devants, denounced her as an emigre 

* Archives Nationales, Comite de Surety Generale, 
Serie F^, 4,596. 

■:;vi***ar> *. i - *• .*^" 


•■IfU-iTT '•if ¥*\. ■ .• 




Til face page -'i>'> 


in the month of October, 1792. She then had 
recourse to your justice, and after a thorough ex- 
amination you decided, by a decree of November 27, 
1792, that she was still entitled to her civil rights. 
Since that time she has continued to send remittances 
to her establishment in Paris, and by means of the 
persons in charge of her affairs she was able to pay 
475,343 livres to her creditors, who were for the 
most part necessitous, and whom she would have 
brought to ruin with her, if she had not adopted 
the project of seeking in foreign lands a sale for 
her goods, which she could not hope to find in her 
own country. 

'' Nevertheless, certain insincere debtors refusing to 
pay her, supposing her to be an emigree, in contempt 
of the decree of the Directoire, which declares her 
to be in possession of her estate, she thinks well 
to bring her case before the administration and again 
claim justice, petitioning that her name be struck off 
the list of emigres^ if it has been inscribed thereon 
through the denunciation of some malicious persons. 

"The justice she solicits affects not only the 
numerous creditors she has still to satisfy, but also 
fourteen of fifteen relations, born like herself without 
means, and who have only been able to live these 
last twenty years through her help, a burden which, 
joined to the bad faith of her creditors, will leave her 
barely sufficient to live on. 

" She appends a list of the sums she has remitted 
to her establishment in Paris since her departure, 



and those which the persons who manage her affairs 
have paid." 

To this petition was annexed a statement of moneys 
remitted from Frankfort and London, of which we 
have spoken ; a note of sums paid to different work- 
people and tradesmen, amounting to a total of 73,503 
livres 19 sols 3 deniers ; and another statement of 
payments made, from which we have extracted the 
following : 

A receipt from Citizen Moreau, merchant, of blonde 

lace ... ... ,,, ... ... ... K)K)y3'^0 

Three receipts from the district of La Montagne — 

a voluntary gift ... ... ... ... ... 300 

Two receipts from Epinay for the war fund ... 75 

Three receipts for State lands ... ... ... 12,400 

A receipt from a mason of Epinay for the boundaries 

of State lands ... ... ... ... ... 360 

A receipt from the surveyor respecting the said 

lands ... ... ... ... ... ... 100 

Gift of six new shirts to the Montagne district, 

29 Brumaire. 

She did not forget, we see, to mention the divers 
patriotic gifts she had made, nor the purchase of 
lands at Epinay, confiscated from the Mathurins 
d'Emile (Montmorency). Were not these things 
proofs of a good citizen ? 

Nevertheless, the first petition did not meet with 
the success its authors expected. The matter was 
referred to the Comite de Surete Generale. 

The administrators of the Department of Paris 


appointed to inquire into the merits of Rose Bertin's 
appeal, while recognizing the justice of it, dared not 
formally commit themselves. 

The following letter reveals the motives of their 
hesitation :* 

" Office of the Claims of Emigres : Bertin, dress- 
maker. Department of Paris^ Paris, 7 Fructidor, 
year II. of the French Republic, one and indivisible. 
The cidministi^aiors of the Department of Paris to 
the citizens representing the people, composing the 
Comite de S'drete Generale of the National Conven- 

" Citizens, — A decree of the Directoire dated 
September 27, 1792, founded on Article 6 of the law 
of April 8, relating to merchants, ordered the removal 
of the sequestration from the property of Citizeness 
Bertin, formerly dressmaker to the Capets. 

" Since when, in virtue of the law of March 28, 
1793, she was again entered on the list of emigres^ 
and the seals replaced on her estate. 

" She now demands their withdrawal and the re- 
moval of her name from the list, on the ground that 
she went abroad in July, 1792, with a passport, in 
order to recover immense sums of money due to her. 
She is still actually in England, from whence she has 
remitted nearly 500,000 livres to her business 
establishment, of which 80,000 appear to have been 

* Ai'chives Nationales, Emigres, Serie F', 3,361. 


paid to honest Sans-Culotte workmen, who have been 
in her employ for twenty years ; she declares that 
her prolonged and compulsory residence in England 
is entirely due to her desire to meet her liabilities, 
and to pay the necessitous workpeople to whom she 
still owes considerable sums. 

" We think, citizens, that the law of March 28 
in no way touches the woman Bertin, since she left 
with a passport and for the purpose of commerce ; 
and that the desire she has manifested, of satisfying 
her creditors and necessitous workpeople, might be 
a reason for exempting her from the law of October 23, 
1792 ; but as this woman by her profession was in 
touch with the Court and nobility, we have delayed 
our judgment until we learn your decision, and have 
ascertained whether there exists anything against her 
which might cause her to be suspected of conspiracy 
and counter-revolution. 

" Your answer will serve us as guide. 

" (Signed) Garnier. 

E. J. B. Maillard. 



The matter being thus referred to the Comite de 
Surete Generale, the petitioners drew up another 
memorandum, in which they said :* 

* Archives Nationales, Comite de Surete Generale, 
Serie F?, 4,596. 

m LONDON 261 

"The relations and creditors of Citizeness Bertin 
claim justice in her name from the Comit6 de Siirete 

" She left the country having complied with the 
legal formalities respecting merchants, has taken with 
her four work-girls, with passports from their district 
signed by the Municipality of Paris, being in the 
habit of sending employees abroad, as may be seen by 
her books. 

*' An error, no doubt, caused her name to be placed 
on the list of emigres, although in September, 1792, 
the department issued a decree in her favour which 
restored her to her civil estate ; and hut for the war, 
which prevented her disposing of her merchandise as 
soon as she desired, she would have already returned, 
bringing the greater part of such sums as were owing 
her abroad. 

"The conspirator Momoro, enemy of the Republic, 
and opposed to all advantages which commerce would 
bring to it, made a statement to the department by 
which, although unable to denounce her as an SmigrSy 
since she had complied with all the formalities of the 
law respecting merchants, nevertheless, pursuing 
his infamous counter-revolutionary projects, he has 
caused the case to be transferred to the Comite de 
Surete Generale, which has delayed for three months 
the payment of a hundred fathers of families, creditors 
of this citizeness ; it was hojDed that this would rouse 
them to discontent, but one cannot believe that the 
great principles which are the glory of the Comite de 


Silretd Gdn^rale, and the security o£ republicans, will 
allow an individual to be regarded as suspect, who 
by her talents has made the national commerce 
flourish, and has brought considerable sums into 
France, and who now, at the age of fifty, compels our 
enemies to be tributaries to our industry, and ex- 
change their gold against the bullets the Republic 
fires upon them. 

" Her desire to return is a proof of her love of her 
country and of her civicism, since she might set up a 
profitable establishment with her merchandise and 
funds, did she not prefer above all a modest com- 
petence in her own country, where she has bought 
State lands, notably 23 acres in Epinay, on the eve 
of her departure, which, after paying her debts, will 
be all she possesses. 

" Her relations make no mention of all the gifts 
her establishment has made to her district, in money, 
shirts, and every kind of article for expenses of war. 

" The Committee will please observe that but for 
the latter event this citizen would have returned to 
France more than six months ago, with the greater 
part of the sums owing to her, which will be lost to 
the Republic if the Comit6 de Surety G^n^rale does 
not render her justice according to the law.'^ 

It will be noticed that the petitioners make no 
mention of Mile. Bertin's reappearance in Paris 
during the winter of 1792-93, from which it appears 
probable that she did not get the passport issued in 


June renewed before leaving for London ; that she 
left France, in fact, rather hastily, the events of 
January probably having some connection with her 

The inquiry was energetically pursued, with great 
circumspection on the part of the administration, as 
would appear from a note from the Committee of 
Legislation, as follows : 

"N.B. — There exists in the foreign department of 
the Committee of Public Health a letter from an 
emigre in which there is some mention of Citizeness 

"It is of the greatest importance that no decision 
should be given without this letter being seen. The 
Committee of Public Health should be asked for a 

The letter evidently contained nothing which 
might compromise the dressmaker, as on January 16, 
1795, after two years' exile in England, she obtained 
the followinof decree : 

'^27 Nivose, year III. of the French Republic. 

" Having seen the memorial from Citizeness Marie- 
Jeanne Bertin, dressmaker o£ Paris, requesting that 
her name be effaced from the list of emigres.^ and the 
seals removed from her country-house at Epinay ; 
together with — (1) The decree of the Directoir, dated 
November 27, 1792, reinstating her in possession of 
her furniture at Epinay, and other property therein 
named ; (2) her account-book and a statement of 


sums remitted to her establishment of Paris since her 
departure, amounting to nearly 500,000 livres ; 

(3) a statement of payments made to her workpeople 
and artisans, amounting to nearly 80,000 livres ; 

(4) a file of bills of exchange discharged since her 
absence ; (5) another file of receipts relating to State 
property which she has acquired ; (6) a file of receipts 
for patriotic gifts to the war fund; (7) minute of a 
letter written on 7 Fructidor, addressed to the 
Comit^ de Surety G^n^rale, to ascertain whether there 
was any suspicion of counter-revolution or conspiracy 
against Citizeness Bertin ; (8) the answer of the 
Comite, dated 19 Yendemiaire, stating that no 
denunciation had been made against her; (9) a 
certificate from the district of Butte-des-Moulins 
dated 6 Nivose, verified by the department on the 
9th, showing that Citizeness Bertin is known to have 
been in the habit for twenty years of going abroad 
for business purposes ; 

" The Agent National having considered the above ; 

" The department, considering that the above docu- 
ments prove that Citizeness Bertin is publicly known to 
have been in the habit for twenty years of going 
abroad to do business, that her absence has been 
already declared non-emigration, and that there does 
not exist against her any denunciation which might 
cause her to be suspect, Decrees that her name shall 
be effaced from Section 18 of the list of emigres 
drawn up on August 29, 1793 (Y.S. ) ; and, respect- 
ing the request that the order for sequestration be 


cancelled, refers her to the Office of National Estates 
of the Department of Paris, the execution of the 
present decree to be delayed, in conformity with 
Article 22 of Chapter 3 of the law of the 26th of 
last Brumaire, until the decision of the Committee of 
Legislation of the National Convention be given, to 
which purpose the said decree shall be remitted to the 
said Committee and to the Office of National Estates." 

The certificate referred to above, given by the 
district of Butte-des-Moulins, dated 6 Nivose, is 
signed by nine witnesses ; amongst others, Roch Omont, 
employd of the Bertin establishment ; Jean-Pierre 
Messin, jeweller ; and Pierre- Joseph Richard, 
pensioner of the Republic, who resided in Rue de la 
Loi, No. 1,243 — that is, the dressmaker's own house ; 
and Luc-Joseph-Charles Corazza, a well-known pro- 
prietor of a caf^, who lived at No. 12, Maison Eglit6* 
— that is, in the Palais-Royal. 

The decree of the Committee of Legislation which 
definitely removed Marie- Jeanne Bertin 's name from 
the list of emigres is dated 11 Pluviose, year III. 
(January 31, 1795), and is signed by David de FAube, 
rapporteur, Eschasseriaux jeune, Pepin, Louvel, 
Duarand-Maillane. f 

Rose Bertin therefore, being removed fi-om the 
list of emigres, very soon obtained the removal of the 

* Archives Nationales, Emigration (Seine), Pohce Gene- 
rale, Serie F^, 5,612, et Serie ¥\ 5,837. 
t Ibid. 


sequestration on her goods, as is shown by documents 
preserved among the records of the Seine, dated 
7 and 19 Ventose, year III. (February 26 and 
March 10, 1795), given below : 

" Liberty, Equality. 

" The Office of National Estates of the Department of 


** Having seen (1) the petition of Citizeness Marie - 
Jeanne Bertin, dressmaker of Paris, presented by 
Citizen Martincourt, her attorney, by which he 
demands that the sum of 3,744 livres 6 deniers 
should be placed in his hands, which sum was paid 
to Citizen Matagnon, Receiver of this office, by 
divers tenants of the said Citizeness Bertin, being 
the price of the rents of certain houses belonging to 
her ; 

"(2) Three receipts amounting together to a total 
of 3,744 livres 6 deniers, given by Citizen Matagnon, 
dated respectively, the first 17 Messidor, year IL, 
for the sum of 150 livres, paid by Citizen Marion; 
the second dated the 25th of the said month, for the 
sum of 3,431 livres 10 sols and 6 deniers, paid by 
Citizen Laurent ; and the third dated 26 Frimaire, 
year III., for the sum of 162 livres 10 sols, paid by 
the same — the said sums being the price of rents 
which had fallen due for houses belonging to the said 
Citizeness Bertin ; 

" (3) The copy of a decree of the Committee of 
Leofislation of the National Convention, dated the 


11th of last Pluviose, orderino: that the name of the 
said Marie-Jeanne Bertin be effaced from the list o£ 
emigrds, that the sequestration of her property be 
withdrawn, and that the sums proceeding from such 
sequestration as have perhaps been paid into the 
public exchequer be refunded to her : 

" Decrees that Citizen Matagnon, Eeceiver of the 
said office, shall pay to Citizeness Marie- Jeanne Bertin, 
or to Citizen Martincourt, her attorney, the sum of 
3,744 livres, which have been paid to him by Citizens 
Laurent and Marion, debtors of Citizeness Bertin in 
respect of rents, in accordance with the receipts issued 
by the said Citizen Matagnon, as aforesaid. Which 
reimbursement will be placed to his account upon 
annexing a formal receipt to these presents, of which 
a copy will be despatched to the Director of Registra- 
tion, for execution thereof. 

"Given in Paris, 7 Yentose, year IIL of the French 

" True copy. — (Signed) Guillotin, Remesve." 

The reimbursement was ordered to be made under 
certain conditions a few days later : 

^^ Paris, 19 Ventose, year III. Citizen Gentil to 
Citizen Bertho?iy Receiver of the Office of National 

" In virtue of a decree of the Office of National 
Estates of the Department of Paris, bearing date 


16 Ventose, I beg you will pay to Citizeness 
Marie-Jeanne Bertin, or to Citizen Martincourt, her 
attorney, the sum of 3,744 livres, paid to you by the 
Citizens Laurent and Marion, debtors in respect of 
rents to Citizeness Bertin, in accordance with receipts 
bearing dates 17 and 25 Messidor, year II., and 
26 Frimaire, year III., which reimbursement will 
be placed to your account upon annexing a formal 
receipt to the said decree. 

*' You will advise me of the execution thereof, and, 
above all, of the receipt of this letter ; but I inform 
you that if there are any expenses either for repairs, 
painting, taxes, or any claims raised by the tenants, 
the same shall be deducted from the 3,744 livres, as 
also such money as is due to the Receiver." 

As soon as Rose Bertin heard of the success of the 
efforts of her relatives and friends, she began to make 
preparations for departure. She said farewell without 
regret to the hospitable town where she had taken 
refuge, and where she left a whole French colony of 
persons of the highest rank, amongst whom she had 
more than one customer. This colony led an extra- 
ordinary existence ; though they had barely any 
means of livelihood, yet they held receptions and 
made a great show of dress. How did they keep up 
appearance ? Rose Bertin could have given some 
explanation of her part in it. Countess de Boigne 
has given us a description of the life of the emigres in 
London which throws some curious sidelights on 


them, and shows to what shifts they were reduced. 
" I saw," she says, " the Duchess of Fitz-James, 
established in a house in the environs of London, 
inviting all her acquaintances to dinner, and retaining 
her grand society manner. It was understood that 
on leaving the table each guest should put three 
shillings in a cup on the mantelpiece. Not only 
were the three shillings collected when the com- 
pany had left, but if among the guests there had 
been anyone who was believed to be in better circum- 
stances, he was considered extremely mean if he had 
not deposited his half-guinea instead of three shillings, 
and the Duchess complained bitterly of it. Never- 
theless there was a certain luxury about these 

They had no means to hire carriages, and so in 
grande toilette j and all decked out, they braved the 
outside of public vehicles, to the amazement of the 
English public. Everything was sacrificed to appear- 
ance, to a show of fortune. No one admitted the 
possibility of this state o£ things lasting. Anyone 
renting apartments for more than a month was 
looked on askance ; it was better to take them by the 
week, as there was no doubt that one was on the eve 
of a counter-revolution which would recall each one 
to France."! 

Rose Bertin at least saw her wish soon realized. 

* " Recits d'une Tante : Memoires de la Comtesse de 
Boigne," etc., t. i. Paris, 1907. 
t Recits d'une Tante, op, cit. 


Nevertheless her position was far from brilliant, and 
Martincourt, indefatigable in his endeavours to recover 
the sums due to her, could write to the Countess 
Skavronsky at Naples, on March 14, 1795, without 
lying, and even without exaggerating: "M. Perregaux, 
w^hom I saw two days ago, tells me that he has no 
funds belonging to you, and has received no order 
to pay me ; he also informed me of your loss, of 
which Mile. Bertin will be sorry to hear. Circum- 
stances have completely ruined that lady, who is 
overwhelmed with creditors.""^ 

It would be a long time before commerce could 
recover from the crisis which had darkened so many 
fortunes, and ruined numberless enterprises, manu- 
factures, and shops, that catered for the rich, and 
consequently suffered with the latter. Toilettes were 
very humble in the year III., from the accounts of 
Josephine de Beauharnais, who was one o£ Rose's 
clients. We see that she bought a piece of muslin 
worth 500 livres, a shawl worth 270 livres, a large 
shawl 1,200 livres, 6 ells of taffeta of Florence grey 
at 1,320 livres, and two pairs of grey stockings with 
coloured clocks, worth 700 livres. But one must 
remember the current value of assignats, the depreci- 
ation of which was so considerable that in Messidor, 
year III. (July, 1795), the louis d'orof 24 livres was 
worth 808 livres in assignats. At this rate the 
stockings cost 10 livres 8 sols, which is not, it 
is true a bazaar price ; but the large shawl cost 
* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier 64i6. 


38 livres 12 sols, a ridiculous sum, and at such 
a rate no establishment could regain lost ground. 

The depreciation of paper money continued to 
increase, so much so that in the year IV. in Paris the 
value of a louis in assignats was 18,000 livres. 

This must be taken into account in considering the 
formidable sums entered in account-books of the time. 
What would have been the value of a hat made 
with all the elegance and art of the period of the 
unforgettable poufs when 50 livres was asked for 
the washing of a shirt, 250 livres for a pound of meat 
or tallow, 1,400 livres for a pound of sugar, 
2,000 livres for a pair of shoes, 3,000 livres for a 
simple hat, 8,000 livres for an ell of Elbeuf cloth, 
and 50 livres for a pippin ? 

Such was the position of trade when the former 
dressmaker to the Queen was about to return to her 
Parisian establishment. She left London without 
regret ; she could have felt no joy on returning to 

Her route to the sea lay by Canterbury, where she 
broke her journey. Her reason for doing so was 
that Baron Duplouy, with whom she continued to be 
on friendly terms, had taken refuge there. Baron 
Duplouy, of an Abbeville family, was one of her 
oldest and most faithful clients, but, like so many 
other French ^migr^Sy was in very straitened cir- 

''Mile. Bertin," he writes, "on her return to 
France from London, passed through Canterbury, 


where I was staying with my family, and bought of 
me 600 livres* worth of embroidery and other goods, 
in which I was trading in connection with a partner 
at Hamburg. She promised to pay me this sum 
immediately upon my arrival in Paris, from whence 
she intended to ask payment of what I owed her, 
unless she had been able to see my father-in-law, and 
mother-in-law on passing through Abbeville. 

" Having succeeded in seeing Mme. de Belloy at 
Abbeville, that lady entrusted her with a sum of 
100 louis d'or, which she promised to forward to me 
on the earliest possible occasion, and which she forgot 
to do, forgetting also the money for our merchandise." 

It is very improbable that Rose Bertin forgot. The 
fact is that Baron Duplouy owed her a considerable 
sum, and she was waiting an opportunity of returning 
to England to settle the matter. Baron Duplouy 
himself relates how the aflPair ended by Baroness 
Duplouy's paying 600 livres to Rose. " Having 
called on me in Paris with her eldest nephew, M. 
Bertin," he says, " to ask for the payment of my 
account, allowing for the above-mentioned sums, 
which she acknowledged, my wife and I gave her 
600 louis.'' 

Under those circumstances it was not surprising 
that Rose Bertin had delayed payment. Immediately 
on her return after her interview with Martincourt, 
she realized that her business could not prosper while 
the position of the country was so uncertain. She 
preferred therefore to postpone the re-opening of 


her establishment, and during the summer of 1795 
she went on a voyage through Europe, during which 
she visited Germany and Russia. 

Did she or did she not serve as an intermediary 
between the emigres and their relatives in France ? 
It is impossible to speak with certainty, but that 
she gave several of them financial aid has been proved. 
Her generous nature, incapable of counting the cost, 
was unchanged. So soon as she had recovered some 
debt, so soon as she felt some money in her pocket, 
the love of spending seized her, the money ran 
through her fingers, very often to do good to those 
around her, to help some friend or some unfortunate 
client. There was no lack of them at this time. 

The dmigv^s, as she had learnt by experience, 
had great trouble in making both ends meet, kt 
Hamburg Mme. de Couchant had opened a dress- 
maker's establishment • a Mile, de La Tr^moille 
served in it. But all could not turn their hand to 
some trade — those who could were the exception — 
and Rose was sometimes moved to pity at the sight 
of these great ladies reduced to poverty, a poverty 
more striking because of the former luxury they had 





Little by little life resumed its normal course. 
Towards the close of 1795 Rose re-opened her shop 
in the Rue de la Loi, but she never regained the 
fame, the immense fame, she had enjoyed under the 
ancien regime. To her the ancieii regime repre- 
sented all the enthusiasm of youth, all the flurry 
of success, all the happy past, which one does not 
enjoy as one might, and which one is powerless to 
prevent slipping by — days which leave ^ the dis- 
illusioned mind a prey to indescribable sadness and 
profound bitterness. 

To have started with nothing, to have juggled 
with millions, and on the verge of fifty to be 
reduced to counting her pence, did not tend to 
make Rose look on life with joyous eyes. 

Her one consolation was her miniature Trianon 

that she had reconquered, her house at Epinay, 

which the Revolution had not had time to change, 

or which had been, perhaps, protected by local 

accomplices. In fact, in 1796 she came to reside 



there more or less permanently, retaining merely a 
pied-d-terre in Paris, to enable her to give the 
necessary attention to her business, and where she 
only stayed in winter. 

Souvenirs and relatives were not lacking in the 
native village o£ her mother, Marie-Marguerite 
Mequignon. The house where she passed the last 
years of her life was situated in a place known as 
the Village, in the parish of Epinay. It still exists, 
and forms part of a house called the Axilla Beau- 
Sejour, the entrance of which is in the Rue du Bord 
de I'Eau, which descends from the high-road running 
from Paris to Havre through Pontoise, to the banks 
of the Seine, at a short distance from the castle where 
the King of Spain, Don Fran(5isco dAssisi, resided, 
and which has been bought by the municipality of 
Epinay for an Hotel de Yille. 

From the windows the view stretches over the plain 
of Gennevilliers to Paris, which lies outlined in the 

The Seine runs at the bottom of the garden walls, 
and the neighbouring waters keep the air fresh 
and agreeable during the summer heats. Rose 
Bertin found here a comfortable, if not luxurious, 

Epinay was then merely a little village ; since 
those days the population has much increased. It 
was not a mere whim that had attracted Rose to the 
place. She knew that there she would not be isolated ; 
she, who had lived in the bustle of the Court, whose 


life had been one continual rush, could not be 
resigned to living in absolute solitude. On the other 
hand, after coming through all the tragedies of the 
Revolution, it must have Ijeen consoling to find 
herself safe and well amidst her own relations in 
the peace of the country. 

Several of her relatives lived in Epinay. The 
name of M^quignon, her mother^s maiden name, may 
still be seen on tombs in the existing cemetery. The 
cousins of the great dressmaker had remained faithful 
to the place. Besides these, one of her nephews, 
Claude - Charlemagne Bertin, also possessed a 
property which gave on to the Rue du Bord de I'Eau. 
The house, the entrance of which is at No. 1, Rue 
de Paris, is now much dilapidated, and is occupied 
by families of the working class. 

Rose was therefore at very little distance from her 
nephew. She spent her days between Paris, where 
she superintended her business, and the country, 
where she rested. 

In spite of all the events which had shaken public 
life, her name remained famous, and such was her 
fame that a young amorous poet, addressing some 
verses to a dressmaker of the Palais- Royal, com- 
pared her talent to that of Rose Bertin. 

The verses, which appeared in the Petite Poste de 
Paris or the Prompt Avertisseur of 8 Pluviose, 
year V. (January 27, 1797), were entitled " L*Esprit 
k la Mode," and run as follows : 


" To Mile, Eulalie, fashionable dressmaker, Galerie de Bois du 
Palais- Royal, air of Pourriez-vous hien dodder e^icore . . . 

" Chez vous, ou president les graces, 
Aimable eraule de Bertin . . .""* etc. 

The verses are signed "Marant Junior," and contain 
a play of words. An esprit was a little feather which 
women then wore in their hair. 

Rose Bertin regained some of her customers. 
Countess Dillon La Tour du Pin Gouvernet, whose 
husband had been Ambassador at the Hague under 
Louis XYL, and whose ordinary dressmaker was a 
Mile. Gosset residing near the Oddon, but who used 
to go to Bertin's for Court dresses, had occasion, 
about September, 1797, to come to her shop for 
some modest purchases. The conversation between 
the two women immediately turned to past days. 
Rose had known her client since the latter's infancy. 
She spoke a good deal about her position and the 
precarious state of trade, a discreet hint as to the 
sum still owing her on the part of the Countess. 
She was much too diplomatic, however, to broach 
the subject brusquely ; she did not sjoeak directly of 
the 2,500 livres, of which she nevertheless had great 
need. In those uncertain days clients were birds 
that were too rare to risk the danger of frightening 
them away at the outset. 

Nevertheless very few of the great ladies, her 
former clients, returned to her shop. Her chief 
occupation was still the recovery of old debts, and 


the days passed without bringing any great im- 

The fashions of 1797, though still very different 
from those o£ the days when Rose was an inspirer 
of fashion, were none the less eccentric. After the 
restraint which women had been compelled to exer- 
cise during the Terror, it would almost seem that 
they were endeavouring to find compensation for a 
simplicity of which the souvenir recalled days that 
were for ever accursed. 

In 1794 Vicomtesse de Fars said: "Poverty 
reigned among all persons of good birth; those 
who had preserved a few golden pieces wore the 
livery of indigence, every appearance of luxury 
which might arouse a suspicion of wealth had to 
be avoided." 

In 1797, how^ever, the style of dress was far from 
being simple, and the Parisian fashions were a source 
of amazement to those newly arrived from the 
provinces ; they had great trouble in getting accus- 
tomed to them. " The buskins, short waists, low 
necks, short sleeves, Greek coiffure," says Mme. de 
Chastenay in her memoirs, " all seemed to me so 
theatrical that I could not imagine that lienriette 
[her young sister] would dare to appear dressed in 
this style. My brother, however, insisted upon my 
immediately adopting these fashions ; and I was so 
provincial that I had great trouble in getting accus- 
tomed to them." 

There occurred at this time, the beginning of 179 8, 


an astounding incident, the scene of which was 
Mile. Bertin's own house. 

A part of the house was let to a Neapolitan ice- 
vender named Garchi, whose shop was a fashionable 
resort. On January 15, 1798, the shop was invaded 
and sacked by a gang of villains, under circumstances 
so extraordinary that the tale sounds like a story of 
brigands, and shows how very unsafe Paris was at 
this time. A pamphlet published on the following 
day gives all the details of the drama of the Rue de 
la Loi. We cannot do better than to give it in full, 
as it is a faithful account of the police reports : * 

'^ An Exact and Detailed Report of the Massacre 
tvkich took place Last Night in Paris y No, 1,243, 
Rue de la Loi, District Butte- des-Moulins, at the 
House of Citize7i Garchi, Confectioner and Ice- 
Merchant ; the Number of Persons killed and 
Assassins arrested, their Names and Addresses, 
26^A of the present month of Nivose. 

" Towards ten o'clock last evening a party of ten 
men wearing long overcoats, some wearing grenadier 
caps, entered Citizen Garchi's shop, No. 1,243, Rue 
de la Loi, and sat down at one of the long tables of 
one o£ the rooms on the first-floor. They each took 
an ice and a small glass of liqueur, which they paid 
for at once. A minute later two men in uniform, 

* Archives Nationales, Police Generale : Affaires Poli- 
tiques, Serie F^, A. 6,149. 


wearing long coats, came in and sat down at a table 
close by. 

" No sooner had the latter entered than one of the 
first band attacked and grossly insulted in loud 
tones one of the last comers. Citizen Garchi in- 
stantly^ begged the man to remember the respect 
due to a respectable establishment. Upon this 
the aggressor retired with the rest of his gang, 
and the two others adjourned to the billiard- 

" Meanwhile twelve or fifteen men dressed in the 
same style came np the staircase just as Citizen 
Fournier, Aide-de-Camp of General Augereau, was 
leaving with three of his friends. One of the men 
who were coming up fixed his eyes on the group of 
four, and saying, ' That face displeases me,' struck 
one of them a blow on the head. Citizen Fournier 
and his friends, as astounded as they were angry, 
immediately put themselves on the defensive ; but 
more than thirty men, dressed more or less in the 
same style, all armed with swords and sticks which 
had been hidden under their coats, fell with fierce 
blows upon the four men and all whom they found 
in the various rooms, about twenty in number, 
massacring all whom they came across, and smash- 
ing everything round them. 

" Several unsuspecting spectators were the principal 
victims. Citizen Fournier and his friends are mutilated 
by sword-cuts ; Citizen Colavier, merchant, residing 
in the Rue Mont Blanc, has a piece of his arm cut 


away, his left side pierced, his face cut, and his head 
and thighs mutilated. 

" Citizen Fanatieu, residing at the Hotel de la 
Souverainete, Rue de la Loi, has the left thigh cut to 
the bone, and all his limbs gashed. 

" Citizens Faure, Lierval, Cantin, Chosy, and 
Lamotte, are seriously wounded. 

" Three other persons, names and whereabouts 
unknown, jumped out of the windows for safety, 
and although covered with wounds, as they left 
traces of blood behind, were attacked again in the 
streets by accomplices of the rest ; one ran down 
the Rue de la Loi, and the two others down Rue 

'' The citizeness who was at the desk in Citizeness 
Garchi's absence was so hurt by the assassins who 
attacked her that she was covered with blood ; the 
white shawl she was wearing, now deposited with the 
justice of the peace, was dyed red. 

" Another citizeness, who was leaving the establish- 
ment, would also have fallen a prey to the assassins, 
who were threatening her with their swords, but for 
the intervention of one of them who took her under 
his protection. 

" Citizen Garchi, who had tried every means of 
conciliation, and who had already received a con- 
siderable number of blows, sought safety in flight, 
breaking a pane of glass and precipitating himself 
head foremost on to a balcony, and even then the 
assassins tried to cut off his legs as he fell. 


'' Citizeness Garchi was in bed in a room on tiie 
floor above, it being only six days since her confine- 
ment ; hearing the cries of the victims and the shouts 
of the assassins, she lost consciousness. 

" While their accomplices were engaged in this 
wholesale butchery, some of the scoundrels entered 
the pantry near the billiard -room, and stole the silver 
spoons from the drawers which they rifled, while 
one of them held the kitchen boy, with a sword at 
his throat. 

"A butcher from a neighbouring shop who had 
run out to lend assistance was struck down on the 
threshold of the house and disabled. 

''Marble- top tables, glasses, chairs, statues, and 
lamps were smashed, and the enraged monsters used 
so much force that a piece of sword-blade, all blood- 
stained, was found among the ruins, and it would be 
difficult to describe the frightful spectacle which the 
apartments presented. The furniture was thrown 
down and broken, floors, corridors, and balconies, 
were covered with blood, as were even the courtyard 
and pavement. 

'' It was an hour before an armed force strong 
enough to overcome the assassins appeared on the 
scene, and then only four were arrested and taken 
before the General of the Moulins Division, at his 
headquarters, Quai Malaquais. The arrest of these 
monsters was chiefly due to the courage of Citizens 
Benard and Guichard, adjutants, who, after calling on 
them to surrender, fell on them with drawn swords, 


and, in spite of their fierce resistance, disarmed them ; 
the rest saved themselves by flight. 

" This armed force, which unfortunately arrived 
too late, was composed of three detachments — one of 
veterans, one of National Guards, and the third of 
paid troops, who were compelled to ^x their bayonets 
to their guns. 

" An insj)ector of police could not at the moment 
be found, but Citizen Decourchant, Justice of the 
Peace for the Butte-des-Moulins District, came as 
soon as he was summoned. He found the victims 
stretched on the floor in different parts of the house, 
and four of the assassins in the hands of the armed 

'*The head of the police, being immediately advised, 
despatched an armed force which remained in the 
vicinity of the house all night. General Bonaparte 
sent to ask for exact details at nine in the morning, 
and it is affirmed that he was as indignant as he was 
distressed at the calamity. 

'' We will not permit ourselves any reflections on 
this event, but we are pleased to hope that the 
Government will seize this occasion to make an 
example, which may guarantee the j^eoj^^le that their 
property will be protected for the future, by punish- 
ing these wicked men, who are undoubtedly guided 
by motives worthy of punishment. 

''We can assure our readers of the truth of these 
details, as they were furnished by eyewitnesses, and 
by Citizen Garchi himself." 


The affair caused considerable excitement, and 
Berard (of the Rhone) moved the Council of the 
Five Hundred to send a message to the Directoire on 
the subject. 

It was finally discovered that all the trouble was 
caused by political quarrels, of which the Garchi 
establishment was frequently the scene. Former 
emigres and Royalists enjoyed meeting there. Garchi's 
caf(^ was one of the most fashionable rendezvous. 
" It is the school of good breeding and pretty 
manners," says the Coiirrier Frangaisy of 4 Fructidor, 
year III. (August 21, 1795). " You should see how 
one flits and flutters about, it's the rage, and thanks to 
the fashion the industrious ice-cream merchant is 
making a fortune.'* And the same paper says a few 
days later : " He who has not taken an ice at Garchi's 
is an imbecile." 

One can well imagine that such a tenant was a 
godsend to Mile. Bertin. 

In 1796 the Garchi establishment had already 
been the scene of a slight skirmish, which, though 
it had no immediate result, is worth relating. It 
was reported as follows in the Ami des Lois of 
17 Brumaire, year Y. (November 7, 1796) : "A patriot 
in full dress recently entered Garchi's. He asked for 
news of the army ; a charming young man replied : 
' It is good ; we have beaten the republicans on the 
Rhine.' The patriot was surprised. ' Have I the 
pleasure of speaking to an Austrian ?' he inquired. 
This unexpected answer roused the frequenters of 


the caf^ to anger. * This is surely a traitor/ they all 
cried ; ' drive him out.' " 

This no doubt was the oriu'in of the skirmish of 
January 15, 1798. The antagonism between patriots 
and their opponents was no doubt the cause of it. 
The patriots wished to revenge themselves on the 
Royalist frequenters of the cafe for the attitude 
of the latter towards them ; and if some silver was 
stolen, and if Citizen Quentin was robbed of a silver 
watch and ten gold pieces, it was because several 
good-for-nothings had slipped in among the men hired 
to give the habitual customers of the cafe a lesson. 

The police inquiry cleared up the mystery, and on 
the morrow the Ami des Lois published the following 
report : 

" We are assured that the motives of the scene 
which took place in the Garchi caf^, of which we 
spoke yesterday, was not theft, as we announced 
erroneously. . . . To-day another version of the 
affair, which appears to us plausible, presents the in- 
cident as the outcome of a political quarrel, between 
republicans and emigres or their partisans ; and it is 
said that M. de Rochechouart, of whose emigration 
there is no doubt, took part in it, that he struck the 
first blow, and finally succumbed under the fire of 
those whom he had attached. Augereau's Aide-de- 
Camp, who found himself in this bad company, is a man 
named Fournier, known for his fatal skill in duels. 
His well-tried patriotism would lead us to judge 
favourably of his companions, if his recklessness did 


not destroy the conclusions one might draw from his 
political opinions. We are assured that Rochechouart 
has died of his wounds." 

Director Rewbel's two sons had left a quarter of an 
hour before the trouble. 

As to Garchi, he did not remain in Mile. Bertln's 
house much longer, but soon transferred his shop 
and his fame to the corner of the Boulevard 
Montmartre and of the Rue de Richelieu, where he 
founded Frascati, an establishment which immediately 
became famous, and was more than ever the favoured 
rendezvous of all Royalists, who were ready to con- 
spire against the Republic. 

The Almanack du Commerce de Paris, published 
for the first time in 1797, under the direction of 
J. de Latyma, the precursor of the Bottin, gives in 
the list of merchants : 

'' Bertin, dressmaker, Rue de la Roi, 1,243, Butte- 

Butte- des- Moulin s was one of the four districts 
which formed the second ward. The Almanack du 
Commerce published the following year does not give 
Mile. Bertin's address. 

She had not, however, retired, the proof of which 
is that in 1799 she sold a lace shawl, value 960 
livres, to the Empress of Austria ; she also received 
various important orders from Spain, which were 
executed during the years 1799 to 1804. These 
orders were received in the name of Gamain, the 
Duchesse d'Ossuna's steward ; and in the names of 


'I'll face p.igk' 2'Sti 


the Duchess of Infantado ; of the Marchioness of 
Campo TAngel, Spanish Ambassadress of Portugal ; 
and of the Duchess of Berwick. 

It would seem as though her former success might 
return, but unfortunately, if her name still carried 
weight in foreign lands, it was no longer the same in 
France, and Marie - Antoinette's great dressmaker 
witnessed the rise of a new star, a competitor whose 
ever- increasing fame was to make his name rival hers. 
We speak of Leroi, who was to become the official 
costumier of the ostentatious Court of Napoleon ; of 
the Leroi who was to drape the Empress Josephine's 
shoulders with brocade, in place of the shawls which 
Rose Bertin sold to Mme. de Beauharnais. 

Nevertheless she had not lost her reputation across 
the frontiers, and even supplied various merchants 
who offered her creations for sale. Among these 
was a certain Bernard, who had a shop in Madrid, 
and who — which was of no little interest to Rose — had 
entrance to the Spanish Court, having obtained for 
his daughter a post as a darner of lace at the palace. 

On January 7, 1802, he announced that the Court 
was to go to meet the bride of the Prince of Asturias, 
that there would be holidays, and that he hoped to do 
some business. 

Bernard was not merely on business terms with the 
establishment, and in his letters addressed to the 
*' Rue de la Loi, formerly Richelieu, house of 
Beauvillier, restaurant proprietor," he never forgot 
to add a few amiable words for the employees : 


*' Please convey many kind messages to Mile. Pauline, 
including the young ladies and Mme. Bauch^." The 
number of persons employed by Rose was small 
indeed in comparison to those she employed during 
the reign of Louis XYI. 

In the hope of increasing her business, she had 
opened a department for the sale of steel combs, fans, 
gold boxes, and jewellery. 

Now and again Rose recovered some of the old 
debts, the recovery of which had been momentarily 
imperilled by the Revolution. In 1801 the Mar- 
chioness d'Harcourt and her daughter paid their 
account, long overdue. On her part, the dressmaker 
had difficulty in meeting her liabilities. She was 
more than a year in paying for certain articles of 
furniture which she bought from a man named Vogin, 
of Saint-Germain-en- Lay e — a Chinese bed, a mahogany 
table, a lacquer screen, and a poor sort of painting 
representing *' the donkey and the dairymaid," the 
whole amounting to 471 francs, of which she had 
paid 48 francs. But with respect to Vogin, who 
owed her more than 5,000 francs, she was in a 
similar position as with Baron Duplouy. The delay 
was probably intentional. 

It is extraordinary that she should have allowed 
credit to Vogin, and proves how imprudent she 
sometimes was in business matters. Vogin, after 
being chef at M. de Livry's, and then at the Mar^chal 
de Noailles's, had opened some baths at Pecq, where 
he had come to grief. Thanks to Rose Bertin, who 


did not harass him when he was the most pressed, 
and almost on the verge of being arrested, he was 
able to recover his balance, and in 1805 opened an 
establishment in the Rue du Ponceau, No. 42, called 
the *'Bon Gras-Double." Mile. Bertin then, and 
then only, endeavoured to recover her money, and, 
as Yogin disputed part of her claim, they mutually 
agreed to elect Charles de Polignac as arbitrator, but 
the matter was not settled at the dressmaker's death. 

The Almanack du Commerce for the year X., 
published in 1801, gives Mme. Bertin, Rue de la 
Loi, 1,243, Butte-des-Moulins, among the non- 
commercial citizens. This is reproduced in the 
Almanack of the year XL ; she does not appear at all 
in the year XIL, but we find the name Bertin, 
linen-draper, at the same address. This does not 
mean that Rose had closed her shoj) in 1801 ; it 
is merely an omission, but that such an omission was 
possible shows that the reputation of the establish- 
ment had greatly dwindled. 

As to the entry in the Alm.anack of the year XIL, 
it refers to Rose's nephew, Louis-Nicolas Bertin, 
who had been established there since 1803, in the 
very shop which his aunt had occupied ; he was 
in reality her employe, and Rose personally super- 
intended a great deal of the business, as the papers 
of her heirs prove. Not linen only, but all kinds of 
fancy articles were sold. On January 1 (11 Nivose, 
at Bertin, linen-drapers, year XL) Princesse de 
Gargorowsky bought " a little chest in glass and 



imitation Chinese lacquer with gold figures," value 
600 livres ; on February 11 the beautiful Duchess of 
Devonshire, who was called the '' Queen of London," 
and who had been particularly friendly to the French 
(fmigr^s, bought " a basket in the shape of a straw 
vase, with landscapes, the whole made of straw," 
Avorth 144 livres, and a model of the Bastille in gilded 
metal, worth 240 livres. The shop had become a 
small bazaar ; in the time of Marie- Antoinette it 
would have been known as a '' Little Dunkerque." 

Everything seemed to stand in Rose's light. It 
was not enough that she should suffer from the bad 
debtors of the ancie7i reghne and the inevitable 
consequences of the Revolution ; even the wars of 
the Empire were prejudicial to her, preventing in 
the first place her trade with the Courts and nobility 
of the countries at war with France, such as Spain, 
Austria, etc., who had always been faithful to her, 
and also preventing her from recovering moneys due 
to her in these countries. Thus on May 24, 1804, 
a M. de Lancry, a client in Vienna who owed her 
7,350 livres, wrote: '^ We are sending by this post 
to the Abbe Daniel, our mutual friend, our accounts 
and a draft, begging him to pay you, not only the 
capital, but interest at 10 per cent, per ann., which 
we beg you to accept." Rose never saw the money. 
The letter was dated from St. Petersburg ; war was 
raging in Hanover — in fact, there was latent, if not 
open, war throughout Germany. The money never 
reached its destination. 


In spite of all her efforts, therefore, her position 
did not improve, and she appealed constantly, with 
cries of famine, not to the ant, her neighbour, but 
to the out-of-work nobles, who were unable to make 
headway themselves against the waves which had 
submerged them. Some of the more enterprising, 
however, spent their time in plotting against the 
Empire, to no purpose. Their agitation, directed 
from England by the Comte d'Artois, could not be 
anything but unpopular at the time of the field of 
Boulogne, and could only bring on them the suspicion, 
rightfully or wrongfully, of being financed with 
English money. It was thus that the Polignacs 
were imprisoned after the conspiracy of Pichegru. 

Rose Bertin, having written to the Comtesse de 
Gouy O'Mahony, received a letter from her from 
Fontainebleau, where the Comte was in exile, dated 
June 21, 1805, saying : 

" I cannot express to you, madomoiselle, the grief 
your letter has caused me ; I have just received it, it 
having been forwarded to me from Paris. I lose no 
time in answering, to tell you how my heart bleeds to 
be unable to come to your assistance in your cruel 
position, but, alas ! my own is no happier."* 

In the Almanac] i du Commerce for 1806 we find 
for the first time the address of Bertin, linen-draper 
and costumier. Rue de la Loi, 2^. The shop, how- 
ever, had not moved ; the numbers only had been 
changed. In 1787 the order followed in numbering 
the houses was different to that followed in 1805 and 
'^ Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier 1,780. 


later. The first No. 1 was on the left side of the 
Rue de la Loi, formerly Rue Richelieu, at the 
corner of the Rue Saint-Honore ; the next house was 
No. 2, and so on to the end of the street, when the 
numbers continued on the opposite side, the last number 
facing the first. No. 2Q therefore was formerly 1,243. 

In 1807 the Almanack du Commerce still contains 
Bertin, costumier, 26, Rue de la Loi; but among the 
non-commercial residents it publishes Mile. Bertin, 
Rue de Richelieu, 2Q. The street had been renamed 
by its former name, and continued to be so called in 
1808 and the following years ; Rose Bertin, old 
Royalist as she was, rejoiced at seeing her street 
resume the name it had borne under the ancien 
regime ; and had she been one of those persons who 
are consoled with words, it would have been an 
innocent revenge for all the harm the Revolution had 
done her, by depriving her one by one of the heads she 
was wont to deck, with the assistance of Leonard, 
with flowers and gauzes, feathers, lawn, j^earls, 
and powder. There was no great danger under the 
Empire, when one's name was Rose Bertin, in pro- 
claiming oneself a Royalist, and the plots which she 
and Mme. d'Houdetot planned under the great trees 
of Epinay did not lead the conspirators to the trenches 
of Yincennes. 

Epinay was the retreat chosen by that remarkable 
woman, Mme. d'Houdetot, remarkable for very 
different reasons than those Avhich had broui^^ht fame 
to Rose Bertin. There, after the death of her faithful 


companion, Saint-Lambert, she lived for ten years, 
saddened and with a grief-stricken heart, yet always 
playful, smiling, and amiable. Nevertheless, for 
different reasons, life held nothino- for her but regret, 
and, like Rose, a whirlwind of dead leaves swept 
through the garden of her life. 

In 1808 Rose Bertin, whose name was better 
known than any other among foriegn Princes, sold 
to the Queen of Spain a fan w^orth 120 francs, and a 
dress of silver tissue and white silk worth 550 francs. 
Marie-Louise, Queen of Spain, was at the Castle of 
Compiegne with her husband, Charles IV., who had 
abdicated. It was the refuge offered by the Emperor 
to the King in accordance with the Treaty of Bayonne, 
Article 5 of which stipulated that — " The imperial 
palace of Compiegne, its parks and forests, should be 
placed at the disposition of King Charles during his 
lifetime." It was, all the same, little better than a 
gilded prison, over which the imperial police could 
easily keep vigilant watch. 

" The Queen of Spain, Marie-Louise," writes M. J. 
Vatout, " had brains and character. She was small 
and lively, and had preserved all the fire of her 
glance ; she loved dress, and it was apparent that she 
spared no means of fighting against the ravages of 
time." She was born in 1754, and w^as therefore 
fifty-four years of age, and the order for a white silk 
and silver tissue dress shows a certain coquetry, and 
proves her wish to appear young. 

Rose sometimes received orders of this kind which 


flattered her self-love : if Princes remerabered her, 
time could not have quite obscured her fame. 

She had other consolations besides these — the 
friendly intercourse she enjoyed with her nephews, 
one of whom lived a few steps from her house at 
Epinay, and the other superintended her business 
while she was in the country. She had also old well- 
tried friends such as Baron Duplouy, who was very 
attentive to her. In a letter written in 1808, he 
expresses his regret at not finding her at home in 
Paris, and at being unable to go as far as Epinay, 
when he passed through the capital. In another 
letter of the same period he writes : " Mile. Yechard, 
to whom please give a friendly message, having told me 
that you are very fond of sassafras, I have had a little 
barrel put up for you at Saint- Valery. I have sent 
it to Mme. Bertin, your niece, in case you should 
not be at your country-house when it arrives. Be 
careful to put a little vinegar now and again into the 
barrel, to keep it good."* 

Duplouy might well send Rose Bertin a small 
barrel of sassafras, as he was still in her debt ; but 
on August 5, 1812, he proposed to pay off part of 
the debt by instalments, and offered for the rest 
State bonds to the amount of 150 francs. 

Rose, however, never unduly pressed customers 
and friends to whom she had rendered service, and who 
owed her money. On the contrary, she sought when- 
ever she could to help them as far as her means 
* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier 240. 


allowed. After her death this tribute was paid her 
unanimously. The Comtesse de la Tour, whose 
maiden nanae was Polastron, wrote in 1820 : '' Mile. 
Bertin before her death used sometimes to come to 
visit me ; and knowing my circumstances, so far from 
asking me for money, she volunteered to come to my 
assistance, an offer which I refused, not knowing 
when I should be able to repay her. Nevertheless I 
shall be eternally grateful to her, and I rejoice to be 
able to pay this homage to her memory.^'* 

The last portrait we know of, of Mile. Bertin, was 
painted towards the end of her life. We saw it in 
the attics of the Mus^e Carnavalet, where it still is. 

Rose, with her original, complex, and eccentric 
character, posed for the artist, holding on her 
knees the helmet of a cavalry officer. She was not 
at the time of a romantic age, but the Bulletin des 
Musses for 1892 furnishes us with the explanation. 
It says, referring to this painting : 

*'Rose Bertin, dressmaker to the Queen. A large 
rather curious picture, belonging to the family. The 
famous dressmaker, who used to hold counsel with 
Marie-Antoinette upon chiffons and finery, was at the 
time about sixty years of age ; she lived in retreat at 
Epinay, where she played the part of Providence 
towards the poor. Being still something of a 
coquette, the strange fancy took her to be painted as 
Venus decorating the helmet of Mars with feathers. 

'' We have nothing to say of the white dress bedecked 
* Collection J. Doucet, Rose Bertin, Dossier 401 . 


with gold and jewels, which leaves her arms and 
ample bosom bare — it was the fashion of 1803. But 
the helmet belongs to a fancy fireman. It is said 
that it belonged to her nephew, a cavalry officer. 
The red and green feather may serve to identify the 
corps. In spite of the ravages of time, which have 
left her faded, but no thinner, the ex-royal dress- 
maker still strikingly resembles the charming portrait 
painted by Janinet, during the days of her splendour, 
a little coloured engraving which the folly of auctions 
has raised to a price of 6 to 7,000 francs. The 
painting, which is unsigned, is passable. It is a 
precious document for popular history." 

It was not the fashion of 1803, but of 1810 to 
1813. The helmet belongs to a carabineer, and gives 
us the approximate date of the portrait, since a decree 
of December 24, 1809, reforming the uniform of the 
carabineers, had laid down that they should wear a 
helmet and cuirass, which they had not done until 
then. Rose Bertin's great-nephew was an officer in 
the carabineers, a fact of which she was very proud, 
as this portrait amply proves. 

Rose was nearing the end of her life. She very 
rarely went to Paris, and even in winter lived at the 
village of Epinay. In the course of 1813 the village 
lost both the Countess d'Houdetot, who died on 
January 28, having reached the advanced age of 
eighty-three, and Marie-Antoinette's dressmaker, who 
stood on the threshold only of old age. 

Her death certificate, dated September 22, and 


preserved at the Hotel de Yille at Epinay, runs as 

follows : 

" In the year one thousand eight hundred and 
thirteen, on September 22nd, at five o'clock in the 
afternoon, at the Mairie^ before us, Jean-Louis- 
Antoine Gilbert, Deputy-Mayor of the village of 
Epinay- sur-Seine, Department of the Seine, borough 
of Saint-Denis, performing in the absence of the 
said Mayor the functions of a civil officer, there 
appeared Louis-Nicolas Bertin, forty-five years of 
age, costumier, residing in Paris, No. 26, Eue de 
Richelieu, nephew, and Claude-Charlemagne Bertin, 
forty-one years of age, landowner, residing at Epinay, 
also nephew, who declared that their aunt, Mile. 
Marie-Jeanne Bertin, sixty-six years of age, land- 
owner, residing in this parish, born at Abbeville, 
department of the Somme, on July 2nd, one thousand 
seven hundred and forty- seven, daughter of Nicolas 
Bertin and of Marie- Marguerite M6quignon, died 
at her residence this morning at nine o'clock ; and 
the said witnesses signed with me these presents, 
after it had been read to them. 

"(Signed) L. Bertin. C. C. Bertin. 


Two days later the bells tolled at the Church of 
Saint- M^dard of Epinay. The crowd that followed 
Rose's coffin was chiefly composed of the villagers 
amidst whom the last years of her life had been 
spent, and amongst whom, in spite of her abruptness 


and brusque temper, her open and generous nature 
had won her more friends than enemies. 

Although during the Revolution she had acquired 
Church property, having bought lands belonging to 
the Mathurins d'Emile (Montmorency), she was 
admitted to the privilege of Christian burial, as 
proved by the certificate furnished us by the actual 
Cur6 of Epinay, which runs as follows : 

"In the year 1813, September 24, was buried by 
me, the undersigned, Marie -Jeanne Bertin, spinster, 
who died in this parish at the age of sixty-six, in 
presence of Louis-Mcolas Bertin, her nephew, residing 
in Paris, and Claude- Charlemagne Bertin, also a 
nephew, residing in this parish, who signed : 

" Bertin. Bertin. Paurez, Cure. 

" True copy, Epinay, October 30, 1908. — L. 
MiGNOT, Cur^y 

Like all who had bought lands confiscated from 
the religious orders, Rose benefited by the article 
of the Concordat of 1801, by which the Catholic 
Church renounced all claim to the property of which 
she had been deprived, ratified the sale thereof, 
and ipso facto raised all excommunications incurred 
on that head. 

Mile. Bertin 's death momentarily revived public 
interest in her. Several papers published obituary 

The following is an extract from the Journal de 
V Empire of October 5, 1813 : 


" Among the losses which have recently befallen 
the arts, we must count that of Mile. Bertin, justly 
famous for the supremacy to which she raised French 
fashions, and for her services to commerce. She 
died on September 22 ult. at her house in Epinay. 
The good taste and talents of this ingenious dress- 
maker have been celebrated in verse by our poet 
Delisle. Her whole life was an example of benevo- 
lence and filial piety. Her private life affords 
numberless incidents which might profitably be 
recorded in the annals of virtue. Nor will they be 
lost, as a man of letters who can bear witness to them 
has taken upon himself the duty of recording them." 
There is every reason to suppose that this man 
of letters was no other than Penchet, who during 
the course of a public life somewhat agitated several 
times retired into private life, taking up his residence 
at a little estate, to which he was particularly 
attached, situated near Ecouen. The latter place 
is not so far distant from Epinay as to prevent 
his occasionally calling there. Whatever duties 
he may have performed under the Revolution 
and the Empire as Administrator of the District 
of Gonesse, or archivist to the Police Depart- 
ment, Penchet at heart was to a certain extent 
faithful to the old monarchy. Upon this ground 
he must have been on marvellously good terms with 
the Queen's dressmaker. 

The Journal cles Arts, des Sciences, et de la Littera- 
ture of October 10, 1813, also mentions Mile. Bertin's 


death in the following terms : ** The same paper 
[Journal de V Empire] also announces the death of 
a former dressmaker named Mile. Bertin, and assures 
us that a man of letters is already preparing her 
funeral oration. This obituary notice rightfully 
belonged to the Journal des Dames.'" 

The editor does not seem to have grasped the 
identity of Mile. Bertin. " A former dressmaker !" 
Fortunately, she was not there to be hurt by it. 

But, in contradiction of the proverb that no one is 
a prophet in his own country, the Journal d'Ahbe- 
7)iUe of October 9, 1813, published a flattering 
obituary notice. '' This notice in the Journal 
d' Abbeville is the more astonishing because it is the 
only one of the kind which appeared during the 
year 1813 in that paper, which was almost entirely 
devoted to legal advertisements."* 

" Mile. Bertin," says the notice, '' was a native of 
Abbeville, born by chance in an obscure class. Are 
titles and noble birth necessary when one borrows 
nothing from one's ancestors, and, above all, when one 
has been made famous in verse by a disciple of Virgil ? 
It is with feeling and with pleasure that we publish 
this funeral panegyric, which will be confirmed in 
Mile. Bertin' s own country as elsewhere, and more 
particularly in this town, by the compatriots whom 
she has served or honoured both in public and private 
in circumstances which should never be forgotten." 

* Note de M. Delignieres lue a la Seance de la Societe 
d^Emulation dAbbeville, 3 Mai, 1906. 


Baron Duplouy, whose friendship for Mile. Bertin 
may have inspired the lines, could applaud these 
words of the editor of the Journal d' Abbeville. 

But is it not curious what importance the publicists 
of the first Empire attach to the poetry of Abbe 
Delille, '' the disciple of Virgil " ! 

It would seem that all Rose Bertin's fame came 
from the fact that she had inspired the poet Delille 
to write some verses. And yet, while her reign 
lasted, she had caused the greatest personages of 
France to bow to the frivolous yoke of fashion, a 
fashion of which she was the ingenious and lavish 
inspirer. In Abbeville she had acquired and retained 
numerous and faithful clients ; and if she was cele- 
brated, her reputation was due to the imagination she 
showed in the exercise of her profession, and not to 
the mediocre verses of the author of " Imagination." 

Finally, the editor of the Almanach des Modes 
for 1814 added these few words to the article devoted 
to the dressmakers of the day : " We cannot con- 
clude this article without speaking of Mile. Bertin, 
formerly dressmaker to the Queen and Court, who 
retired a number of years ago, and who died about 
three months since at her country-house, situated a 
few miles from Paris. After being for many years 
the most celebrated dressmaker in Paris, she became 
one of the most generous of women. Her life was 
blessed by deeds of devotion, delicacy, and benevo- 
lence, which should be known, and the simple recital 
of which would tend more to her praise than anything 
we can say." 




Rose Bertin left two nephews — Claude-Charlemagne 
and Nicolas ; the family of the one was composed 
entirely of daughters, the family of the other entirely 
of sons. She left besides two nieces, who also had 

Her heirs found that a number of debts were still 
owing her, and set about their recovery. Some of 
these debts were not liquidated until thirty years 
later. It was not until 1842 that the account of 
Comte and Comtesse de Gouy O'Mahony was paid ; 
and that of Comtesse de la Tour, which amounted 
to 1,329 livres, was not paid until 1843. The latter 
bill had been owing since 1789, and the Comtesse 
having died on July 9, 1842, her heirs came to an 
agreement with Rose Bertin's heirs, by which the 
latter accepted 675 francs in payment of the debt. 

Charlemagne Bertin, assisted by the advice of the 
lawyer Petit d'Auterive, took upon himself most of 
the business connected with the estate. Grangeret 

was the official lawyer of the family. In the corre- 



spondence relating to the estate, one finds on all sides 
flattering tributes to the great dressmaker's memory. 
In 1814 Charlemagne Bertin wrote to M. Lefebvre, 
Justice of the Peace for Abbeville, with respect to 
Baron Diiplouy : "I have no need to repeat here the 
services Mile. Bertin rendered this family, and the 
noble devotion with which she seized every oppor- 
tunity of assisting them " — a reference to the civility, 
not to use a stronger word, which Rose had shown 
them when they were in exile in England, and living 
in poverty at Canterbury. 

The following letter is full of praise of Rose and 
her family : 

" The Justice of Peace of the Tenth Ward of Paris 
to the Count de Lieautaud, 

" Paris, 
"July 26, 1816. 

" Sir, — Mile. Bertin and her family, of whom you ask 
me to give you some information, arouse my interest. 

" Mile. Bertin was dressmaker to the Queen and all 
the Royal Family ; she earned their esteem, and even 
their friendship, by her wit, and her life in the world. 
At the moment of the Revolution there was owing to 
her in Paris, from the Court and from the Powers, a 
sum amounting to over 1,500,000 francs. She owned 
several fine houses in Paris and in the country. 
There were 300,000 francs owing her in Russia ; and 
I have fi^equently seen her dining with Prince Konrakin, 
Russian Ambassador, and the Princesses of that 


nation, who liked her, and used to dine with her at 
her country-house, situated near mine. 

" Mile. Bertin was dowered with a rare mind and 
talents out of the common ; she loved and idolized 
the Royal Family and all the Court, and her shop 
was daily open to them. 

" She was the benefactress of her family, composed 
of two nephews and two nieces, who inherited, as she 
died intestate in 1814 (?). 

" The first of these nieces died, leaving, by her 
marriage with a merchant, a daughter, who married 
M. Petit d'Auterive, a lawyer ; and a son, who is a 
Captain and Chevalier of the Ldgion d'Honneur : they 
form the first party. 

" The second niece married M. Chasseriaux, land- 
owner, whose castle is close to Sezanne-en-Brie. She 
died leaving a son, a minor, Lieutenant and Chevalier 
d'Honneur, like his cousin ; he is nineteen years of 
age, and is the second party. 

" The first of the nephews is married, and is a 
landowner who resides at Epinay. He has two sons ; 
the eldest, eighteen or nineteen years of age, has 
presented himself for the Guards : he is gentle, well 
brought up, and of exemplary conduct ; he has a 
brother who also promises well — third party. 

" The second nephew is also a landowner, married, 
and has four daughters — fourth party. 

*' This family has always conducted itself well. 

'^ The father of the aspirant of the Guards is infirm, 
and can only drive about ; he is possessed of native 


intellect, and is above all a most respectable man. 
His income allows him to keep his son in the service. 

" Finally, Mile. Bertin being in exile rendered the 
greatest service to the emigres with her money, her 
wit, her amiability, and the reputation she had 
acquired abroad, especially in England, where she 
invested money. 

" Louis XVIII. and the Royal Family, when they 
arrived in 1814, asked news of her, and, hearing that 
she had been dead for six months, publicly expressed 
their regret. 

'' I have great pleasure, Count, in supplying these 
details concerning a woman, celebrated in her own 
way, who was my friend till death, and whom I 
honoured for her mind, her talents, and above all for 
a loyalty worthy of her great and benevolent soul. 

" I have the honour to remain, with respectful 
affection, your humble and very devoted servant, 

" Rue de FUniversite, 

"No. 11, Hotel de Luynes.^^ 

According to the story told by contemporaries of 
Mile. Bertin, her heirs should not have been able to 
make any claim against the State, since, out of 
devotion to Marie- Antoinette, Rose had burnt all her 
account-books and destroyed all trace of the sums 
owing to her, so that their magnitude might not 
constitute another charge against the Queen. 

The fact is that the accounts had been produced, 



and were in the hands of Citizen Henry ; there was 
therefore nothing to hide, and the heirs employed 
every possible means to recover the money owing 
from the Queen's estate, for which purpose they 
addressed themselves to the Duchess of Angouleme. 

Their lawyer, Grangeret, transmitted to William, 
head of the King's Household, the following letter 
which Charlemagne Bertin had received on the subject : 

" The last letter received from Her Highness the 
Dauphine is dated December 6, 1824, and is as follows: 

" The Secretary and General Treasurer of Her 
Highness the Dauphine, to M. Bertin. 

" Sir, — Her Royal Highness the Dauphine has 
read the petition you addressed to her, dated the 
25th ultimo. I have the honour to inform you that, 
in compliance with her orders, I have forwarded it to 
the Minister of the King's Household. You must 
therefore, Sir, address yourself to His Excellency to 
learn the result of your request. 

" (Signed) Th. Charlet," 

The Bertin heirs addressed a petition, dated 
September 11, 1828, to the Minister, and another on 
October 1, 1829, to Baron de la Bouillerie, Chief 
Steward of the King's Household. 

They declared in particular that among the sums 
owing by the Royal Family was a bill for 3,016 livres, 
for articles supplied to the Comte d'Artois, afterwards 
King of France. 


The events of 1830 interrupted Grangeret's efforts. 
The Minister of the King's Household had not, it is 
true, shown any anxiety to satisfy the claims of Mile. 
Bertin's heirs. The Government of the Restoration 
was overwhelmed with claims from former emigres^ 
whose property had been sold by the revolutionists, 
too pressing to attach much importance to debts 
contracted with a person who had died leaving no 
children. And although Grangeret laid stress upon 
their unfortunate position, it was well known that 
the Bertin heirs were mostly in very comfortable, if 
not brilliant, circumstances. 

Grangeret's efforts met with more success abroad ; 
and in writing in 1818 to the Count de San Martin, 
Master of the Household of the ex- King of Spain, 
Charles IV., claiming a sum of 4,500 francs owing by 
the Queen of Spain since 1808, when she was residing 
at Compiegne, he was able to state that the Empress 
of Russia had recently paid 20,000 francs which had 
been owing some thirty -five years. The Empress did 
not take advantage of the Russian law, which cancelled 
debts which had been owing more than ten years. She 
honestly acknowledged the debt and paid it, paying 
at the same time for a lace shawl, furnished to her by 
Rose Bertin in 1799, value 960 livrcs. 

This information, taken from Grangeret's own 
papers, contradicts the statement he made in writing 
to the Marquis de Boisgehn, that " Mile. Bertin 
was compelled to quit France in 1792, and did 
not return until 1813 " ; and to Adjutant- Major 


de Caradeus, that she had been twenty-five years 

It is certain that there was some confusion in the 
papers, and we think that the statement made by 
Comtesse de Laage must be accepted. The Comtesse, 
formerly Lady - in - Waiting to the Princesse de 
Lamballe, writes on July 9, 1820 : ''I paid all my 
creditors before emigrating, and notably Mile. Bertin." 
She had received a letter from Grangeret claiming 
money owing for articles supplied between August 10, 
1787, and July 25, 1791, and adds: '' I thought 
the claim so extraordinary that I delayed answering, 
especially as one heard it publicly stated on all sides 
that the heirs of Mile. Bertin brought forward un- 
founded claims. After her return to France, I 
frequently saw Mile. Bertin, who always thanked me 
for having paid her.^' 

It is possible that, in the days of feverish anxiety 
and trouble preceding her departure for England, 
Rose received payment of certain debts without 
entering in her books the money received. Martin- 
court relied on these books, and naturally made a full 
copy of all the debts entered therein, to present to the 
office for the liquidation of the emigres' property, and 
Grangeret relied on Martincourt's statement in bring- 
ing forward his claims in later years. 

It was not until some years after her death that 
Mile. Bertin's memoirs appeared. The edition of 
1824 was announced on October 30 of the same year 
in the Journal de V Iraprimerie et de la Lihrairie 


under the title o£ " M6moires de Mile. Bertin sur 
la Reine Marie- Antoinette," with notes and explana- 
tions. The work was published by Bossange Brothers, 
and the paper mentioned above had already declared 
it to be a forgery. The chief aim of the book 
seems to be an attempt to clear Marie-Antoinette 
from the charges brought against her, especially in 
the affair of the necklace. In any case, it seems 
evident that all the anecdotes concerning the Queen's 
dressmaker had been collected by the author from 
contemporary gazettes and memoirs, and perhaps 
even from Mile. Bertin's own lips. Their authenticity 
alone might have caused the statements put forward 
by the author in defence of his case to pass without 
question. However, the anonymous writer who had 
adopted Rose's name as a d^guise was compelled to 
unmask himself; scarcely had the memoirs been 
launched upon the public when Mile. Bertin's family 
rejected them in a letter published by a literary paper 
called the Semaine. Several papers, notably the 
Gazette de France of November 29, 1824, in an 
article signed by Colnet, had given a criticism of the 
book, which they accepted as authentic, and had 
given it a famous advertisement. Sainte-Beuve*s 
criticism appeared in the Globe of November 11, and 
has been reprinted by Jules Troubat in his work 
'* Premiers Lundis," vol. i. (1874) ; it was not 
kindly, and was scarcely calculated to increase the 
sale of it, as the reader may judge from the following : 
" That men who live during a revolution, and who 


are either enlightened spectators or chief actors, 
should bequeath to posterity a faithful deposit of 
their souvenirs is a duty we expect of them ; that 
those who play a secondary part, who have seen 
merely a small corner of the vast picture, and who 
have witnessed a few scenes only, should bring their 
small tribute of revelations — they will still be received 
benevolently ; and, above all, if the writer depicts 
the interior of a Court during a time when public 
affairs were nothing but private affairs, if he shows 
us without disguise august personages in that cruel 
transition from extreme prosperity to extreme misery, 
our eager curiosity will pardon, will magnify, the 
smallest details ; our author may with impunity 
speak to us of himself, if only he will speak of 
others ; we will throw to Mme. Campan all the 
nothings of the antechamber and the boudoir, for 
one happy phrase. But that Mile. Rose Bertin, 
dressmaker to the Queen, sign of the Trait Galant, 
should come towards us with measured step, papers 
and ribbons in hand, addressing her memoirs to the 
coming centuries, is too much for the reader's gravity, 
and for my part I am tempted to demand in the first 
place the montant du mimoire. 

" The book is poor in facts in spite of her assiduity 
in matters of dress. The writer seems to know but 
little of Court matters ; she gives us now and again 
sayings that have fallen from her mistress's lips ; she 
justifies her for nicknaming the Duchesse de Noailles 
^ Madame de I'Etiquette/ and for calling mMailles 


women who have attained their fifth lustre. Once 
only Mile. Rose informs us that the sort of mis- 
understanding which existed between the King and 
Queen was political; Mme. Adelaide held by M. de 
Maurepas, the Queen by M. de Choiseul, inde irce ; 
we feel that these days are far distant. The affair 
of the necklace takes up the principal part of the 
book ; the author was aware of certain details which 
may lend weight to her evidence, and now and again 
her tone is solemn, and it is here we find the appeal 
to coming centuries. Nevertheless we may praise 
her attachment to the unfortimate, and her efforts 
to avenge the memory of a calumniated Queen. . . . 

'' Mile. Bertin is not always happy in her excuses. 
For example, the Count de Charolais was wont to 
amuse himself, as we know, by firing on the workmen 
mending the tileSj to make them fall off the roof ; 
this was, according to her, merely the effect of 
violently heated blood, and the moment past, no 
one's honour was more unimpeachable. She is more 
severe as respects the Duke de Chartres, afterwards 
the monster Egalit^ ; she also refused him her favours, 
though this piece of confidential news has no bearing 
on the history of the eighteenth century. There is 
also little importance, though more grace, in her 
account of the gipsy. This woman had predicted 
to her, when a child at Amiens, that she would 
become a great lady, and her train would be carried 
at Court. . . . 

*' On another occasion when she was in the Queen's 


apartments, during less happy days, the Princess said' 
to her : ' I dreamt of you last night, my dear Rose ; 
you came to me with your hands full of rihbons, and 
I chose some, but as I took hold of them they turned 

" The editor realized that there was not enough 
material for a volume, and so he added notes to it 
respecting the Count de Charolais, the Duke d'Orleans, 
Messieurs Choiseul and Maurepas, which have no con- 
nection whatever with the text ; these persons are 
scarcely mentioned in the book, and all their public 
and private lives are retailed in notes. . . . Occasion 
has been found of inserting an account, written by 
M. Garat, of the alleged Orleans conspiracy, though it 
has no connection with Mile. Rose's book." 

Evidently it was a matter that had been arranged 
between the publishers and M. Penchet, but it was 

Sainte-Beuve's opinion, however, is open to 
criticism. He attaches little importance to Mile. 
Bertin ; but it is probable that he forgets that small 
events have great results, that the Revolution was 
prepared as much by libels, pamphlets, and unfounded 
tales, spread among the people, as by any innate 
desire in the latter for reform. The Court, and the 
Queen especially, were the subject of violent and 
incessant attacks regarding their morals, their pleasures, 
and their extravagance. And the people, who had 
suffered without rebelling, though not without murmur- 
ing, the immorality of the Parc-aux-Cerfs, and the 


shame of the preceding reign, were unconsciously 
preparing to strike their reigning masters, reproaching 
them for faults which were peccadillos compared to 
the monstrosities they had suffered, to their shame, 
for so long. 

But these apocryphal memoirs, against which 
Mile. Bertin's heirs protested, are more or less a 
reproduction of a work entitled " Conversations 
recueillies a Londres pour servir k THistoire d'une 
Grande Renie par M.X.," which had been published in 
Paris during Mile. Bertin's lifetime, in 1807, and to 
which she offered no objection. 

The reason is that the author of the "Conversa- 
tions " was a friend, and yet he makes some slight 
errors, such as calling Beaulard Bollard, and Mme. 
Pagelle of the Trait Gallant Forgel, and giving the 
date of Mile. Bertin's birth as the year 1744, whereas 
she was born in 1747. But the following extract from 
the introduction shows that he held Mile. Bertin in 
high esteem. 

" I had conceived the idea," he writes, " some years 
ago of writing the history of the emigration . . . 
circumstances having changed I abandoned the 
project . . . but among my numerous notes upon 
the subject ... I preserved those I had made from 
memory of the conversations between Charles and 
Mile. Rose. . . . Nothing could induce me to destroy 
these proofs, which supply an answer to all that 
has been said with respect to the necklace. Every- 
one knows Mile. Rose and her devotion to the 


Queen, whose milliner she had been ever since Marie- 
Antoinette's arrival in France ; but few know to what 
extent Mile. Rose enjoyed the Queen's confidence. . . . 
It is rare that Sovereigns, especially those who have 
lost their crowns, possess true friends ; and sensitive 
souls must rejoice at seeing that that unfortunate 
family had a real friend, even though it be Mile. Rose, 
the frivolity of whose trade might have been an 
excuse for unstable feelings. But our good Rose 
had been dowered by Nature with a true heart and 
a level head, such as a business woman requires ; 
her conduct, which the conversations will describe 
better than any words of mine, always bore the stamp 
of that pride which is the outcome of self-respect. 
Virtuous by inclination, she knew no other desire 
than to please her mistress, and we shall see what 
a beautiful tribute the Queen paid her during her last 
days of power at the Tuileries. It was not only the 
Queen who loved Rose; the Duchess d'Orleans, whose 
name is linked with all that is good and honourable, 
also gave her proofs of confidence and interest, as 
did, too, the Princesses de Lamballe and de Bourbon ; 
all the Court ladies spoke in praise of Rose's conduct. 
In leaving France she ceded to the Queen's will, who 
was convinced that if she remained she would fall 
a victim to the fury of the populace, who had been 
persuaded that the Queen's hats and bonnets only 
had caused the deficit in the finances, and that con- 
sequently the best remedy for the disorder was to cut 
the throat of the person who, by her skill and taste, 


had excited or inspired in the Queen frivolous ideas. 
Immediately upon Rose's arrival in London, she was 
welcomed by all the ladies of the Court, who wished 
to know whether the Queen remembered them, and 
whether there was any chance of a speedy return 
to Versailles." 

The writer who speaks so feelingly of the modiste's 
good qualities could scarcely be a stranger to her. 
He praises her, and excuses her for the indirect part 
she played in Marie- Antoinette's extravagance. This 
is not the conduct of a person who is indifferent, and 
if, while writing a book to defend the Queen with 
regard to the affair of the necklace, he retails various 
incidents of Mile. Bertin's life, to which though living 
she made no objection, it must be that he had heard 
them from public rumour or from Bose herself, and 
that they made a fitting frame to his principal sub- 
ject, and lent an air of sincerity and greater force 
to his arguments. But when he thought fit to 
republish his work, after some alterations, and auda- 
ciously gave it the title of " M^moires de Mile. 
Bertin," when she was no longer there to forbid or 
to permit it, then her nephews, through the medium 
of M. Petit d'Auterive, entered their protest. The 
latter says, in the letter that was published in the 
Semaine, that not only Mile. Bertin had not left her 
memoirs, but that she had destroyed her account- 
books during the Terror, for the sake of prudence, 
so that her heirs had not been able after the Restora- 
tion to bring any claim against the State. We know 


how much importance must be attached to this 

After this protest the publishers wrote a letter, 
which was inserted in the Journal de riniprimerie et 
de la Librairie of January 25, 1825, as follows : 
^' Messrs. Bossange Brothers, who published at the end 
of last year a volume in octavo entitled ' M^moires 
de Mile. Bertin,' having learnt that the work is 
apocryphal, have sent us the following letter : 

" ' Paris, 
" ' January 2, 1825. 

" ' Sir, — We see by the rightful protest of the heirs 
of Mile. Bertin, former dressmaker to the Queen, 
that we have been deceived by a person whom it 
would be ungenerous to name, since he admits his 
fault, respecting the authenticity of the book we 
published under the title of " M(^moires de Bertin 
sur la Reine Marie-Antoinette, avec des notes et 
^claircissements." We owe it to truth, and to our- 
selves, to declare instantly that the book was 
published without the knowledge of any of her heirs, 
and to state that we have stopped the sale of the 
*^M^moires," and called in all the copies — in fact, 
nearly the whole edition. . . . 

"'Bossange Brothers.'" 

This announcement in the Journal de VImprimerie 
et de la Lihrame did not arouse the same interest as 
the publication of the memoirs, and it escaped the 
notice of several writers who dealt with the subject. 


M. Ch. Louandre wrote in his '* Biographie 
d' Abbeville et de ses Environs," which appeared in 
1829 : " One would not have imagined that Mile. 
Bertin would have turned her attention to the serious 
events of history, but this is what she has done in 
writing the 'M6moires sur la Reine Marie -Antoinette,' 
published by Bossange Brothers in the ' Collection 
Contemporaine/ with notes and explanations, (Paris, 
1824, one volume, in octavo). 

'* Mile. Bertin begins by saying that she will speak 
very little about herself, and only say just what is 
necessary to make her subject clear. She then gives 
details of her parentage which lead one to suppose 
that she is anxious to hide her origin, or that the 
memoirs are not written by herself, and yet they 
appear to be authentic." 

Nevertheless M. Louandre shows that his suspicions 
are aroused, because, as he points out, Rose Bertin in 
her memoirs speaks of herself as the daughter of 
small tradespeople, whereas we know that her father 
was a member of the mounted police, and her mother 
a nurse. 

Ernest Prarond, though he is not aware of the 
existence of Messrs. Bossange's letter, knows, however, 
that the authenticity of the memoirs was questioned. 

In "Les Hommes Utiles de I'Arrodissement d' Abbe- 
ville," 1858, he says : "Mile. Rose-Marie- Jeanne did 
better than merely make the Queen's hats : she 
remained faithful to her royal protectress during her 
misfortune, and to the day of her martyrdom. . . . 


She changed her needle for an ugly quill, ennobled 
by the use to which it was put. . . . We must say, 
however, to protect ourselves, that there has been 
some controversy respecting the authenticity of Mile. 
Bertin's memoirs." 

The memoirs are apocryphal, but Rose had seen 
enough to have written them. Her role was not 
without importance ; she was too near to the Queen 
not to have known in detail many of the incidents 
which are the subject of controversy. And had she 
written the souvenirs of her life, we should not have 
received them like Sainte - Beuve, with a mocking 
laugh ; on the contrary, with eager curiosity we should 
have allowed her to guide us through those past 
days, about whose faded finery there lingers the 
perfume of dead roses. 


Allonville, Comte d', 67 
Almanach du Commerce, 291 
des Modes, 161 

Ballon, hairdress a la, 142 

Bastille, bonnets <i la, 194 

Beaulard, 43 

Belle Poule, dress a la, 163 

Bertin, Rose, birth of, 11 ; Brittany, 
journey to, 168 ; Directoire, peti- 
tion to, 256 ; fashion supplier to 
Queen, 174 ; Germany, journey 
to, 211 ; heirs, 304 ; influence, 25, 
51 ; London, shop in, 254 ; mem- 
oirs, 309 ; parents, 13 ; portrait, 
295 ; by Jainnet, 151 ; Russia, 
business in, 249 ; St. Petersburg, 
dresses sent, 166 ; Spanish Court, 
suppliers, 287 ; train carried, 108 

Bertonienne, hat a la, 114 

Bochart de Saron, 190 

Bonnets a la bonne maman, 46 ; a la 
Chartres, 26 ; a la Gertrude, 131 ; 
a la paysanne, 57 ; picards, 101 ; 
various, 194 

Boue de Paris, hats a la, 147 

Bouille, Mme. de, 246 

Cabinet des Modes, 42, 58, 197 

Cadogan, 144 

Calonne, 153 

Campan, Mme., 36, 39, 64 

Caps a la hedgehog, 86 

Chartres, bonnets h, la, 26 ; Due de, 

15 ; Duchesse de, 16 
Chasseriaux, 304 
Chastenay, Mme. de, 278 
Chateaubriand, 168 
Cherubin, hats a la, 142 
Citoyenne, bonnets a la, 194 
Cockade, the, 200 
Colin-Maillard, bonnets a la, 131 
Colour, fashionable, 60 
Conti, Princease, 14, 21 

! Corazza, Charles, 228 
Corbeille Galante, la, 177 
Correspondance Litteraire, 43 
Costume, Mme. du, 136 

Dauphin, birth of, 131 
Dress h, la Suzanne, 162 
Du Barry, Mme., 13, 87 ; bills pre- 
sented to by Bertin, 89 
Duplouy, 227, 294 

Eccentricities, end of era, 106, 133 
Emigres, list of, 244 
Entelles, M. des, 249 
Eon, Chevalier d', 79 
Epinay, Rose's house at, 217 
Esprit, 'k la mode, 276 

Falconnier, 11 

Fashion during Revolution, 234 ; in 

1797, 278 ; in 1798, 278 ; in 1810, 

Fitz-James, Duchesse de, 269 

Gallerie des Modes, 96 
Garchi, 279 

"Grand-Mogol,"22, 137 
Grangeret, Maitre, 201, 306 
Guertin, P., 123 

Hardy, J. P., 177 

Hats a la Henry IV., 69 ; a la laitiere, 

Head-dresses, 53, 95 
Hedgehog, caps k la, 86 
Henri IV., bonnets a la, 131 ; hats 

a la, 69 
Houdetot, Mme. d', 292, 296 

Jainnet, 152 

Kerry, Lady, 193 

Laage, Mme. de, 193 




Lamballe, Princesse, 60, 215 
Lamotte, Mme. de, 187 
Leonard, Souvenirs of, 20, 28, 82 
Leroi, costumierof Court of Napoleon, 

Lever de la reine, bonnets k la, 194 
Levite, la, 98 

Loi, rue de la, Massacre, 279 
Louis XVIIL, 305 
Louise-Marie- Adelaide, 158 

Madame Royale, 

Marie- Antoinette, 11, 22; accounts 
burnt by Bertin, 240, 305 ; Bertin, 
intimacy with, 56 ; dresses, 205 ; 
expenditure, 204 ; head-dresses, 
110, 164 ; portrait of, 258 ; in the 
Temple, 223 ; wardrobe, 202, 209 

Marlborough, hats a la, 142 

Meister, 43 

Memoirs of Rose Bertin, 315 

Mequignon, widow, 25 

Milliners in eighteenth century, 19 ; 
during Revolution, 247 

Minerve, dress a la, 163 

Monarchy, last years of, 180 

Monflieres, pilgrimage to, 98 

Musulmane, dresses a la, 26 

Ninon, Epitre a, 250 

Oberkircb, Mme. d', 33 
Oliva, Mile., 13 

Pagelle, Mile., 13, 18,87 
Paris mud, 140 

Penchet, 212, 299, 312 

Picot, Mile., 115, 117 

Pouf, 158 ; k, la circonstance, 35 ; 4 

I'inoculation, 35 ; aux sentiments, 

28, 32 

Quaker bonnets, 162 
Ques aco, 27 
Quinault, Mile., 30 

Razomowsky, Count, 224 
Religieuse, bonnets a la, 142 
Royal Family in prison, 222 
Royale, Madame, birth of, 102 

Sainte-Beuve, criticism of, 309 
Semaine, la, 315 
Sultane, bonnets a la, 26 
Suzanne, dress a la, 162 

Tableau de Paris, 53 
Trait Galant, the, 13 
Tuileries, the siege of, 208 
Turkish dress, 140 

Versailles, fashion at, 20, 40 
Vigee-Lebrun, Mme., 165; portrait 

of Queen by, 184 
Villars, Duchesse de, 71 
Vogin. 288 

Walpole, Horace, 61 
Wengel, Joseph, 139 
Wertmuller, portrait by, 159 
Williams, Helen Mary, 234